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Survey shows how false information is shared

Survey shows many share false information unintentionally

39% of respondents in an international study say they have unintentionally shared false or misleading information. 55% said they shared false or misleading information because they thought it was true. A third say they shared impulsively.

The study was made this summer by Poynter Institute for Media Studies, its digital media literacy initiative, MediaWise, and YouGov with support from Google. The survey comprised 8 585 respondents in the US, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Nigeria, India, and Japan.

In India and Nigeria, almost half say they have accidentally shared false or misleading information at some point. In the US and the UK, about a third say the same, and in Germany, fewer than 1 in 4 do.

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Younger respondents (Gen Z and Millennials) are more likely than older to say they accidentally shared false or misleading information because they felt pressure to share quickly, and are less likely to say they shared it because they thought it was true.

“Most respondents, but older generations in particular, are reluctant to correct people who post false or misleading information online. Among Gen Z and Millennials, over a third correct people they know personally always or most of the time, but only 1 in 4 say they correct people they don’t personally know.”

“Respondents who say they have accidentally shared false or misleading information themselves are less reluctant to call out other people who post false information.”

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62% of respondents think they see false or misleading information online every week. In the US, the UK, Brazil and Nigeria, respondents are more likely to say they see false or misleading information daily compared to India, Germany and Japan. Younger users feel slightly more confident in identifying false or misleading information than older users.

Of younger respondents, around half are moderately or extremely concerned about their friends and family believing false or misleading information they see online. Four in ten respondents are very concerned about the effects of false or misleading information on the education of young people and the effects on public health. Older are more concerned about the effects on political polarization

Across generations, respondents are most likely to verify information they see on search engines and messaging apps. There are broad similarities across generations on the preferred methods of verifying information before sharing. The most common methods are checking the source and date of the post and using a search engine.



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