Research & Data 2 minutes, 47 second read Emily Dickinson, Director, Opinium
In today’s media systems large swathes of the population circulate political information with great regularity. And, as a consequence, false and misleading information can become widely distributed – and fast.
It’s a problem that has for the past four years received huge media attention but the question remains: how can we as marketeers counter, challenge and ultimately stop the spread of ‘fake news’?
Understanding why people share fake news
If greater numbers of people than ever are more likely to encounter false and misleading information on a daily basis, we need to better understand why so many people will readily share false and misleading information online.
Exploring why, and with what effects, people share news about politics on social media is therefore an essential part of the broader debate about the relationship between the internet and democracy.
So in April 2018, Opinium joined the Advisory Board for Loughborough University’s Online Civic Culture Centre, to research and explore the motivations that drive people to share political news on social media and how these might be contributing to changes in our online civic culture.
|57.7%||Users that came across news in the past month on social media that they thought was not fully accurate|
|42.8%||News sharers that admitted sharing inaccurate or false news|
|33.8%||Sharers of inaccurate or false news that report being corrected by other social media users|
|7.3%||Admit sharing news they thought was made up|
|26.4%||Those who shared inaccurate or made up news and were not corrected|
But is the problem as widespread as we think?
According to the research, more than half of British social media users (57.7 percent) came across news in the past month on social media that they thought was not fully accurate.
More worryingly, 42.8 percent of news sharers also admitted to sharing inaccurate or false news; of which 17.3 percent admitted to sharing news they thought was made up when they shared it.
Yet despite this, a significant amount of the sharing on social media of inaccurate or made up news goes unchallenged. Fewer social media users (33.8 percent) report being corrected by other social media users than admit to sharing false or exaggerated news (42.8 percent). And 26.4 percent of those who shared inaccurate or made up news were not corrected.
Few users correct the sharers
Interestingly, we know that the problematic news sharing does not stimulate many social media users to correct the sharers: in total, only 8.5 percent of British social media users said that they reprimanded another social media user for sharing news that was made up.
We also know that those on social media are mainly motivated to inform others and express their feelings. But other more civically-ambivalent motivations also play an important role. For example, almost a fifth of news sharers (18.7 percent) see upsetting others as an important motivation when they share news.
If this sounds alarming it is worth remembering that about one-third (31 percent) of British social media users share news on social media at least once a month. The demographic and behavioural profile of these users resembles that of the most politically active members of the general public – they are more likely to be male, have higher educational attainment, and be more interested in politics – although younger people are more likely than older people to share news.
It has been said before, but it is worth repeating – Twitter is not Britain.