Report by Islamabad-based MMfD
Seven in ten respondents of a survey believe that Facebook is the digital platform that is used most often to spread misinformation, while one in ten see YouTube and Twitter as the main platforms used to spread misinformation.
This was said in a study by Media Matters for Democracy (MMFD), an Islamabad-based non-profit digital rights organisation.
The study, titled, Misinformation in the Public Eye, aims to understand three basic questions.
How does the public perceive misinformation?
What is the impact of misinformation on public perception and trust on news media?
Is the public using any strategies to tackle misinformation?
It starts by stating the fact that the term “fake news” does not define properly the different types of the information disorder. It did not tell the respondents what the standard definition of misinformation is, but rather attempted to understand their perception of it.
The survey is based on responses of 503 people across Pakistan. Since the study only asked for their opinions, it acknowledges that the frequency with which so-called ‘fake’ news spreads or how it spreads may be very different.
The study said that ninety percent of Pakistanis agree that ‘fake’ news or misinformation and disinformation is a problem. And a significant majority say they encounter ‘fake’ news once a week or more frequently.
Are newspaper readers more likely to encounter misinformation or disinformation, or people who get their news from social media? Forty-four percent who get their news mainly from newspapers say they encounter misinformation or disinformation daily, while only 22% of people who rely on social media report encountering ‘fake’ news daily.
When asked how they identified fake news, 10% said they could not do it. This is roughly the same number of participants who did not think ‘fake’ news is a live challenge in Pakistan.
Participants showed great faith in the ability of other Pakistanis to identify misinformation.
The second section of the report began by analysing how people access the news. As expected, TV is the leading source of information.
Distrust in anonymous social media accounts and politicians and political parties is evident from the observation that almost all ‘fake’ news comes from these two sources.
Twenty-one percent of respondents believe that WhatsApp is responsible of spreading ‘fake’ information.
The majority think Facebook is the main source of ‘fake’ news dissemination.
A sizeable trust deficit between consumers and news media was observed, with only 4% of participants saying that they had a high level of trust in news media.
Almost half the respondents said they would not rely on news media to form political opinions.
The third segment of the report covered opinions on how to deal with misinformation. The first question examined ways to counter online misinformation. The most common response puts the responsibility on social media platforms, who are expected to develop better policies to counter fake news. The second most common response puts the responsibility back on the consumers, who should learn how to spot fake news better.
Half the participants felt the government should develop better tools to tackle the spread of misinformation.