More than a third of internet users are unaware that online content might be false or biased, according to new Ofcom research.
It reveals that 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.
Misinformation can spread quickly on social media platforms. 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.
Although seven in 10 adults (69%) said they were confident in identifying misinformation, only two in 10 (22%) were able to correctly identify the tell-tale signs of a genuine post, without making mistakes.
Ofcom saw a similar pattern among older children aged 12-17 (74% confident but only 11% able).
Says Ernest Doku, broadband expert at Uswitch.com:
“The internet is the main source of news for millions of people, and it is concerning how difficult consumers find it to identify accurate information online.
“Whether using online services at home or on the move with our mobiles, we have a mine of information at our fingertips every day. Yet from bogus reports and unverified videos to fake social media profiles it has become increasingly tough to separate fiction from fact.
“Ofcom’s findings that children as young as five have social media profiles mean the volume and accessibility of offensive and inappropriate content online are a serious cause for concern.
“Legislation is needed to stand up to the rise in misinformation and the Online Safety Bill currently going through Parliament is to be welcomed. If passed this will give Ofcom additional powers to help people live safer lives online.”
Online experiences uncut
Today’s reports reveal an unfiltered picture of our lives online today. Other themes emerging in this year’s research include:
- Multiscreening TikTots – TikTok is growing in popularity, even among the youngest age groups. The popularity of short-form content could also be linked to multi-screening, with more children reporting difficulties in focusing on a single online activity.
- Concealing life online – Many children could be tactically using other accounts or ‘finstas’ – fake Instagrams – to conceal aspects of their online lives from parents.
- Scrolling over sharing – both adults (88%) and children (91%) are becoming more passive online; and are three times as likely to watch videos online, than to post their own content.
- Social Samaritans – Young digital natives, who have never known life without the internet, are sharing their technical skills and supporting others. They’re also increasingly using the internet as a means of supporting their own wellbeing.