‘Fake news’ was named word of the year in both 2016 and 2017 — but in 2018 it appears Australians’ trust in the media has actually climbed.
The 2018 Reuters Institute Digital News Report finds 50 per cent of Australians say they can trust “most news most of the time”.
That’s up almost 20 per cent since last year.
But the proportion of people who distrust the news hasn’t shifted.
A chart shows trust in the media has climbed from 42pc in 2017 to 50pc in 2018.
(More Australians say they trust the news, but distrust remains just as high as last year.)
That might sound pretty grim, but Australians are actually more trustworthy of us journalists than average.
The survey covers 38 countries and only 44 per cent of people across the global sample trust most of the news.
Australians are increasingly choosing to get news from places few people trust
People appear to be particularly distrustful of the news they see on social media, with only 24 per cent of Australian respondents saying they think they can trust it “most of the time”.
45pc distrust news on social media. By comparison, 39pc trust news on search engines and 45pc distrust it.
(Only one in four Australians says they trust the news on social media most of the time.)
Despite that mistrust, consumption of news on social media is very much on the rise:
- 52 per cent now say they get some of their news via social media. That’s up 6 percentage points from last year, the biggest climb of any form of media.
- 17 per cent say social media is their main source of news, up 1 percentage point.
That might partly be explained by a split on how Australians feel about news on social media depending on their age: people under 35 are more likely to trust it (34 per cent) compared to the over-35s (19 per cent).
What kinds of ‘fake news’ are people worried about?
About 65 per cent of Australians express concerned about what is real and what is fake on the internet when it comes to news.
But in a world where ‘fake news’ can mean anything from a completely made-up story to an accurate story a politician didn’t like, the report seeks to clarify exactly what kinds of misinformation people are worried about — and which kinds they’re actually experiencing.
Chart shows 67pc are concerned about stories that are completely made up for political or commercial reasons.
(Australians’ concerns include deliberate misinformation, poor journalism, and politicians co-opting the term ‘fake news’.)
The global report’s lead author, Nic Newman from the Reuters Institute in Oxford, notes: “A key finding here is that while audiences worry about fabricated or ‘made up’ news, they mostly struggle to find examples of when they’ve actually seen this. Of all our five categories, this is the biggest single gap between perception and experience.”
How to spot dubious news
Michael Jensen and Mathieu O’Neil from the University of Canberra, which conducted the Australian arm of the research, say the motive for spreading fake news can be as simple as making money, or as complex as international information warfare.
Either way, they suggest watching out for these signs that a story might be dubious:
- Grammatical errors;
- Mistakes regarding non-controversial facts;
- Lack of sourcing;
- Factual claims being linked to a political agenda;
- Links to sources that don’t back up the claims of the article.