Disinformation

Few issues are as contentious as the role and spread of "disinformation" on social media and Internet platforms.

First and foremost is the thorny question of how disinformation can best be identified and when platforms should be required to block and/or remove content. The issue touches upon core questions of free speech and political expression. And has led to a plethora of confused policies and stop-start initiatives. According to a recent "code of conduct" agreed in 2018 with platform-industry input, platforms must remove any content that "may cause public harm" or poses "threats to democratic political and policymaking processes as well as public goods such as the protection of European Union citizens’ health, the environment or security." But the same agreement excludes a ban on "misleading advertising, reporting errors, satire and parody, or clearly identified partisan news and commentary."

Given the difficulty of legislating in this area, regulators have tended to rely on "self-regulation," such as the code of practice on disinformation mentioned above. But how well are these semi-formal agreements working? Are there perhaps lessons – positive as well as negative – that could be drawn up based on the relative success or failure of these codes in practice and the real-world functioning of the Internet in an unprecedented era of democratic expression and outright disinformation?

Below we pulled together some of the best evidence on the relative spread and level of identifiable disinformation as well as the efforts to contain and remove it.

Additional information on disinformation around the world can be found on the World Intermediary Liability Map (WILMap), led by the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.

Records 1 - 10 of 30


chart preview

Average Monthly Facebook Interactions for Prominent French News Sites and Some of The Most Popular False News Sites (2017)

This column chart from the Reuters Institute shows the average monthly Facebook interactions for several prominent French news sites and some of the most popular false French news sites, in million minutes. Notably, although the prominent news sites outperformed the false ones in reach and monthly time spent on their pages, their Facebook interactions lag behind some of the interactions achieved by the false news sites.
chart preview

Average Monthly Reach of Prominent French News Sites and Some of The Most Popular False News Sites (2017)

The graph shows that all of the false news sites in the French sample have a comparatively small reach. On average, most reached just 1% or fewer of the French online population each month in 2017. The most popular, Santé+ Magazine—an outlet that has been shown by Les Décodeurs to publish demonstrably false health information—reached 3.1% (this equates to around 1.5 million people). This was more than double that of well-known Russian outlets like Russia Today (1.5%) and Sputnik News (1.4%), which despite their international prominence, are used only by a small minority.
chart preview

Average Monthly Reach of Prominent Italian News Sites and Some of The Most Popular False News Sites (2017)

In general, the news sites included in the sample outperformed the false news outlets with well over one million interactions per month. In addition, La Repubblica outperformed all of the news sites we considered in the sample. However, eight of the 20 false news outlets in this sample generated more interactions per month than the news website of the Italian public broadcaster, Rainews.
chart preview

Average Monthly Time Spent With Prominent French News Sites And Some of The Most Popular False News Sites (2017)

Cumulative data of total time spent with the false news outlet (per month) remains below the time spent with news. Even if people spent just under 50 million minutes per month with Le Huffington Post, this still exceeds the total time spent with all 20 false news sites from the sample.
chart preview

Average Monthly Time Spent With Prominent Italian News Sites and Some of The Most Popular False News Sites (2017)

The best performing outlet was Meteo Giornale—ostensibly a weather site, but also one that has been shown to publish false information about supposedly imminent asteroid strikes and the like. Again, this is roughly half the equivalent figure for Rainews, but very far behind the figures for La Repubblica (443.5 million minutes) and Il Corriere della Sera (296.6 million minutes).
chart preview

Catalan Crisis - Number of Reachable Viewers

During the Catalan crisis, the Russian news sources (Russia Today and Sputnik) have reached similar level of engagement of the viewers and readers as the Spanish news sources and BBC.
chart preview

Catalan Crisis- Number of Shared Posts

Naturally, the Spanish media was the most active in terms of the number of published articles as well as the amount of online sharing. However, according to the source, Russian news media (Russia Today/Sputnik) took the fourth place.
chart preview

Distribution of Sources Used for Coronavirus News in Germany

The chart shows that German respondents trust the most scientists, doctors and health experts when it comes to getting information about coronavirus (74%) and trust the least people they don't know (15%). The results are based on the participants' answers to the following question "Q10: How trustworthy would you say news and information about coronavirus (COVID-19) from the following is? Please use the scale below where 0 is "not at all trustworthy" and 10 is "completely trustworthy.""
chart preview

Distribution of Sources Used for Coronavirus News in the United Kingdom

The chart shows that United Kingdom respondents trust the most national health organisations when it comes to getting information about coronavirus (89%) and trust the least people they don't know (10%). The results are based on the participants' answers to the following question "Q10: How trustworthy would you say news and information about coronavirus (COVID-19) from the following is? Please use the scale below where 0 is "not at all trustworthy" and 10 is "completely trustworthy.""
chart preview

Europeans' Views on Whether Disinformation is a Problem in Their Country

According to the results of the Eurobarometer survey, in all countries, more than half of respondents viewed the existence of news or information that misrepresents reality or is even false as a problem. Over 90% of respondents from Cyprus, Greece and Italy view this kind of information as problem in their country, while in Belgium only 66% share this view. The respondents were asked "Q4.1 In your opinion, is the existence of news or information that misrepresent reality or even false a problem in your country?" European Union refers to EU28. The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020.