NEWS7 November 2023

Majority concerned by disinformation, finds Unesco and Ipsos poll

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FRANCE – A majority of citizens ( 85%) are worried about the impact of online disinformation, according to a survey commissioned by Unesco, conducted by Ipsos in 16 countries.

Someone scrolling through a blue mobile phone in the dark

The research, which involved around 8,000 respondents in countries where elections are due to be held in 2024, found that in addition to concerns about disinformation, a further 87% of citizens believe that it has already had a major impact on their country’s political life and fear that it will influence the results of their elections. 

On average in the 16 countries surveyed, over half ( 56%) of internet users frequently use social media to stay informed about current events, ahead of television ( 44%). 

Two-thirds ( 68%) of internet users on average reported that social media is the place where disinformation is most widespread, ahead of groups on online messaging apps ( 38%) and media websites/apps ( 20%).

Alongside the opinion survey, Unesco has published an action plan to regulate social media platforms, after a consultation process over the past 18 months, involving 10,000 contributions from 134 countries. 

As part of the action plan, social media platforms must employ teams of qualified moderators to control content that is posted online. They must ensure the transparency of the moderation process, including when it is automated through algorithms. 

Audrey Azoulay, Unesco director general, said: “Digital technology has enabled immense progress on freedom of speech. But social media platforms have also accelerated and amplified the spread of false information and hate speech, posing major risks to societal cohesion, peace and stability. To protect access to information, we must regulate these platforms without delay, while at the same time protecting freedom of expression and human rights.”

Unesco is mobilising dedicated funding to assist member states in making the action plan part of their own regulations, and plans to organise a World Conference of Regulators in mid-2024. 

Ipsos conducted the online survey in 16 countries among representative samples of the national population of Internet users aged 18 and over in each country. A total of 8 000 individuals were interviewed ( 500 per country). Each country was chosen because a national election is foreseen in 2024. Online interviews took place between 22nd August and 25th September.