More than half of German Internet users are confronted with political disinformation at least occasionally

More than one in two people in Germany encounter politically motivated disinformation on the Internet at least occasionally (54%), and 85% say it has the potential to endanger democracy. These are the findings of a recent survey by the the forsa Institute for Social Research and Statistical Analysis commissioned by the Media Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia (LfM NRW) dealing with information behavior in elections.

In addition, disinformation is increasingly being recognized as such, so it does not have a direct impact on opinion-forming processes, as is usually assumed. However, disinformation is only rarely reported. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by media scientist Sabrina H. Kessler, Senior Research and Teaching Associate at the Institute for Communication Studies and Media Research at the University of Zurich, also on behalf of the LfM NRW.

Disinformation is rarely reported

Nearly half of the nearly 1,400 respondents to the study said they encounter disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccination (44%) and Russia’s war in Ukraine (46%) at least weekly and primarily on social media; more than 20 percent of respondents said they even encounter it daily. As the study states, most ignore and/or get annoyed by information they suspect is wrong. Just a few users do their own research to verify the information, and even fewer respond to the disinformation in a comment. That disinformation is reported on the platform, happens only very rarely.

The forsa survey comes to a similar conclusion: Although almost half of the approximately 1000 respondents perceive reporting disinformation as an effective countermeasure (44%), only a few (13%) make use of it. Younger respondents report disinformation more frequently than older ones, but compared to 2021, far fewer (2023: 36%, 2021: 51%). This is a problematic trend, as digital platforms play a central role in the spread of false claims and disinformation.

GADMO activities to promote media literacy

The GADMO team encourages internet users to report disinformation, also directly to the GADMO team. It can be submitted via our WhatsApp service, and our fact checkers from dpa, CORRECTIV, AFP and APA will then check whether the claim is false, whether the video really shows what it is supposed to show or whether the photo has been manipulated.

The media literacy offers by the GADMO partners also aim to arm citizens against disinformation on the web. As part of the b° future Festival in Bonn, GADMO partner CORRECTIV will be offering a free fact-checking workshop for citizens, in which participants learn to recognize disinformation. In a new podcast, CORRECTIV’s fact checkers provides information about disinformation in the Ukraine war (in German). As a member of MediaWise’s Teen Fact-Checking Network, GADMO partner dpa-Faktencheck is training fact checkers between the ages of 14 and 17 and recently published the first videos of the young fact checkers.

One of the most important bulwarks against disinformation is good journalism. The survey commissioned by LfM NRW shows that the most frequently used verification method of the participants is to compare information with other sources from the Internet. Only if fact-based, carefully prepared and reliable information can be found in such situations disinformation can be refuted.

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