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Welsh Users Believe Fake News the Responsibility of Social Media Firms

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90% of people in Wales believe that social media companies have a responsibility to remove fake news, according to new research published by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).

The results of the nationwide survey of over 2,000 adults was published ahead of the close of the Government’s consultation on online harms earlier this month and featured in CIM’s submission to the consultation.

The vast majority of those surveyed (79%) believe that social media companies should be monitoring for fake news on their platforms. Only four in ten (39%) believe government shares this responsibility, running counter to points raised by former Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg now of Facebook, earlier this week.

The results point to the fact that the Government’s White Paper doesn’t address the presence of fake news on social media unless it is causing a specific harm. However, the research uncovered a widespread expectation that social media companies are responsible for removing fake news from their platforms.

Dr Gavin Davies, Wales Chair at CIM, said:

“The damage fake content has upon public trust is of huge concern to CIM. As marketers we spend £3.9bn on internet display advertising in order to bring value to our customers. Our professional members and the wider marketing industry needs confidence they are spending their marketing budgets wisely.

“While the public have made it clear they feel it is down to social media companies to find and remove fake news from their platforms, the Government’s proposals for regulating social media platforms will not require them to monitor and remove it. The result could be that even after the introduction of regulation, fake news may continue unchecked.”

Fake news leading to declining trust in social media posts

More than half of adults in Wales (53%) with a social media account say that they have seen something they would consider to be fake news in the past three months, with more than a third (36%) saying they had seen fake news in the past week.

This prevalence of fake news on social media is the likely cause of declining confidence in the accuracy of social media content. In a similar survey in 2014, the Chartered Institute of Marketing found that 62% indicated that they trusted content on social media (giving a score of 6 out of ten or more). By 2019, this had fallen to 34%, with only 1% saying that they are very confident (a score of nine or ten out of ten) that information on social media is accurate or genuine.

Exemption for private messaging

The Government’s proposals also provide an exemption for private messaging. However, when asked as part of the survey most of the public believe that there should be some level of monitoring of private messages on platforms like WhatsApp.

  • Monitoring of messages made by people with a history of problematic behaviour online is backed by 41%
  • While 31% believe private messages should be monitored for “buzz words”
  • Only one in four (26%) said that they did not believe private messages should be monitored