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Information literacy: global survey reveals serious gaps

Peter Krass's picture

by Peter Krass on 09/07/2022
Blog Category: advanced-technologies

How bad is the problem of fake news and misinformation online?

Pretty bad, finds a recent report based on a survey of nearly 8,600 people worldwide.

Among the survey respondents, more than 6 in 10 said they see false or misleading information online every single week. And nearly 4 in 10 said they’ve unintentionally shared it.

The survey was conducted over the summer by Poynter Institute, Poynter’s MediaWise and YouGov with support from Google. There were 8,585 respondents in 7 countries: the U.S., U.K., Brazil, Germany, India, Japan and Nigeria.

The survey team also wanted to compare behaviors and concerns across different generations. So they arranged the survey data not only by the 7 countries, but also by 5 generational groups: Gen Z (those now 18 to 25 years old), Millennials (26 to 41), Gen X (42 to 57), Boomers (58 to 67) and Silent Generation (68+)

What the survey found

Respondents in the U.S., UK, Brazil and Nigeria are more likely to say they see false or misleading information online every day than those in Germany, India or Japan. Nearly half the U.S. respondents (47%) said they encounter misinformation online daily. The only national respondents with a higher rate were those from Nigeria (52%).

Younger respondents—Gen Z, Gen X and Millennials—feel more confident than Boomers and Silent Gen members about their ability to identify when online information is false or misleading. Among Millennials, 13% said they are totally confident of their ability, compared with only 3% of the Silent Generation.

Younger respondents also worry more about friends and family unintentionally sharing false or misleading information online. For example, just over half of Gen Z (52%) worry about family sharing, compared with 35% of Boomers and only 30% of Silent Generation.

Among all respondents, 39% said they’ve unintentionally shared false or misleading information online. The only age group reporting a significantly lower rate of unintentional sharing was Silent Gen, at 32%.

Also among all respondents, 55% said they’ve intentionally shared false or misleading information because they mistakenly believed it was true. Among older respondents, a higher percentage were tricked into sharing: 60% of Boomers and 67% of Silent Gens.

What’s the effect of all this misinformation? Depends on who you ask. Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X worry mainly about the effect on public health. By contrast, Boomers and Silents focus on political polarization.

Given all that concern, do people verify the information they find online? Not much. Among Gen Z, just half (51%) said they verify information found via a search engine such as Google. Put those same respondents on TikTok, and only 28% said they verify the information found there. With older respondents, it’s even worse. Fewer than 1 in 3 Boomers (32%) said they verify information from Facebook. And among Silent Gen, only 6% said they verify info from Twitter.

Among those who do verify information, how do they do it? Younger respondents say one important technique is seeing whether the information was also shared by a trusted influencer. Among Millennial respondents, fully a third (33%) said they do this. By contrast, among Boomers, looking for an influencer was done by only 1 in 5 (20%).

Read the full survey report: A Global Study on Information Literacy (PDF)



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