Survey shows how hard it is to spot fake news
It’s more difficult than you think to spot disinformation online. More than a third of internet users, adults and children, don’t know that online content might be false or biased, according to a new report from UK’s media authority Ofcom. And there is support for big tech to do more.
81% want tech firms to take responsibility for monitoring content on their sites and apps. 65% also want protection against inappropriate or offensive content.
The report stresses the amount of information available online: Every minute 500 hours of content uploaded to YouTube, 5,000 videos viewed on TikTok and 695,000 stories shared on Instagram.
“Given the sheer volume of information at the touch of our smartphones, having the right critical skills and understanding to decipher fact from fiction has never been more important”, the report states.
However, 30% of UK adults who go online (14.5 million) are unsure about, or don’t even consider, the truthfulness of online information. A further 6% – around one in every twenty internet users – believe everything they see online, the report shows.
More than four in ten adults say they have seen a story on social media that looked deliberately untrue or misleading in the last year.
Tests showed that users’ confidence in their ability to spot fake content belied their true critical capabilities.
“Although 69% said they were confident in identifying misinformation, only 22% were able to correctly identify the tell-tale signs of a genuine post, without making mistakes. We saw a similar pattern among older children aged 12-17 (74% confident but only 11% able).”
24% of adults and 27% of children who claimed to be confident in spotting misinformation were unable to identify a fake social media profile in practice.
Ofcom’s tips to spot misinformation:
- Check the source. This isn’t necessarily who shared the information with you, but where it originated from.
- Question the source. Are they established and trustworthy, or might they have a reason to mislead?
- Take a step back. Before you take something at face value, think about your own motives for wanting to believe it.
- Multi-screening TikTots. Despite being under the minimum age requirement (13 for most social media sites), 33% of parents of 5-7s and twice as many 8-11s (60%) said they have a social media profile. Older children are most likely to have a profile on Instagram (55% of 12-15s). Younger children aged 8-11 were more likely to have profiles on TikTok (34%) and YouTube (27%).
- Concealing life online. Many children could be tactically using other accounts or ‘finstas’ – fake Instagrams – to conceal aspects of their online lives from parents. Two-thirds of 8-11-year-olds had multiple accounts or profiles (64%). Among these, almost half (46%) have an account just for their family to see. A fifth of 16-17 years-olds (20%) choose to have separate profiles dedicated to a hobby such as skateboarding, gaming or photography.
- risky. More than a third of children (35%) reported engaging in potentially risky behaviors, which could prevent a parent or guardian keeping proper checks on their online use. A fifth surfed in incognito mode (21%), or deleted their browsing history (19%), and one in 20 circumvented parental controls put in place to stop them visiting certain apps and sites (6%).
- Scrolling over sharing. Children are seeing less video content from friends online, and more from brands, celebrities and influencers. Feeds full of slick professionalised content seem to be encouraging a trend towards scrolling instead of sharing, with both adults (88%) and children (91%) three times as likely to watch videos online, than to post their own videos (30% and 31% respectively).
- Campaigning, wellbeing and social Samaritans. Children feel positive about the benefits of being online, and many use social media as a force for good. Over half (53%) of 13–17-year-olds feel that being online is good for their mental health, compared with 17% who disagreed.
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