Fake news in Italy, the Censis-Ital Communications report: from risks to the need for rules

Fake news in Italy, disinformation travels fast on the web but the Italians feel the need for more rules and more professionalism against hoaxes. This is what emerges from the Censis-Ital Communications Permanent Observatory report on communication agencies in Italy.

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Misinformation, the power of social media

There are about 14 and a half million Italians (30.1% of 14-80 year olds) who they use Facebook to get news, with shares reaching 41.2% among graduates, 39.5% of subjects aged between 30 and 44, 33% of women. An enormous information potential, exploited during the pandemic also for live communications from the Presidency of the Council. And it’s not just Facebook: 12.6% of the population acquires information on YouTube (and the share is 18% among young people) and 3% on Twitter (5% among the youngest). Social media are generally used in conjunction with other information sources. There are, however, 4 and a half million Italians who get information only on social networks and who are particularly exposed to fake news, which end up influencing their vision of the world and influencing their choices.

The dangerous bubble of ‘who thinks like you’

If the web during the pandemic allowed Italians to build a new digital everyday life from which they will not go back, there is no lack of contradictory and negative aspects of using the network, some of which have a direct impact on information and fake news. 55.1% of Italians are convinced that digital technology foments hatred, resentment, conflict, with shares reaching 58.9% among women and 58.4% among young people under 34; and 22.6% are afraid of falling victim to haters. 46.4% of the population (51.4% among millennials) believe that digital does not help the dialogue between different ideas and leads to always looking for ‘those who think like you’, while 32.4% admit to talking about web only with people who share his same ideas to avoid unpleasant discussions. In short, faced with the risk of encountering hate speech, attacks and unpleasant situations, those who surf the web take refuge in ‘safe places’ where they meet people with identical ideas who feed each other, without worrying if they are true or not. Even these behaviors, completely justified, end up favoring the proliferation of fake news.

Misinformation, the pandemic case

An unexpected, sudden, lasting event such as the Covid-19 epidemic has triggered the demand for information at a global level, first on the virus, then on infections, today on vaccines, causing different behaviors, such as to determine in Europe a majority of vaccinated and a minority of no-vax. According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, 61% of European citizens believe that the most reliable source of information on vaccines are virologists, doctors and health personnel, but among the no-vax the share drops to 32%; 44% of EU citizens rely on what the national health authority communicates, but among the no-vax the share is 12%. 10% of those who are not vaccinated, for information on vaccines, trust websites and 8% in social networks, against 5% of the population. It is significant that 41% of those who have decided not to get vaccinated do not consider any information source to be reliable.

Experts on TV ok for half of Italians

The opinion regarding the media presence of experts in the various fields of medicine is positive for over half of Italians (54.2%). In fact, they were indispensable for obtaining information on the correct behaviors to adopt (15.5%) or because they were useful for understanding what was happening (38.7%). The judgments are negative for 45.8%, as virologists and epidemiologists have created confusion and disorientation (34.4%) or were even harmful, because they caused alarm (11.4%).

Italians are asking for more rules on the web

86.8% of Italians report that news that travels on the web should be subjected to more stringent rules and controls, to guarantee the user and the quality of information, calling into question the managers of social media. The most urgent intervention to stem the proliferation of fake news on the web, reported by 56.2% of Italians, is to provide for more severe penalties for those who deliberately spread false news; 52.2% follow, who believe that platforms should be obliged to remove fake news, a figure that rises to 57.5% among 35-64 year-olds; while 41.5% are convinced that social media must activate control systems (the so-called fact checking) of the news published, with shares exceeding 50% among young people under the age of 34 and among those who have higher study.

Misinformation, professionalism to counter it

The coronavirus has brought to the attention of all the advantages of digital, but it has also made us feel the risks that lurk in an unfiltered, proliferating, disordered communication, which has the epicenter of the danger of disinformation and circulation on the web of fake news. 86.4% of Italians know that to have quality information it is better to rely on paper and online newspapers, radio and television where professionals work, rather than social networks, where anyone is free to produce and disseminate news . Professionalism means reliability: 74.5% of the population believes that television is very or fairly reliable, 73.7% thinks of the radio, 68.5% believe that the news in the press is safe. Only 34.3% of Italians believe social networks are credible.

To combat disinformation and promote reliable and certified information, the Ital Communications-Censis Permanent Observatory on Communication Agencies was born, from which an annual report is produced (the first was presented last spring) to keep attention on the world. media and quality information.


Last updated: Tuesday 28 December 2021, 21:18

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Fake news in Italy, the Censis-Ital Communications report: from risks to the need for rules

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