Centre for Research in Communication and Culture


7 May 2019

New report addresses misinformation and disinformation in news sharing on UK social media

A new Online Civic Culture Centre (O3C) report, based on a national survey, examines news sharing, misinformation, disinformation, and their correction on UK social media.

Authored by Professor Andrew Chadwick and Dr Cristian Vaccari, the report addresses three key questions:

  1. How widespread is the sharing of false and misleading political news among British social media users?
  2. To what extent is there a persistent and damaging “anything goes” culture among those who share political news on social media?
  3. To what extent does the correction of false and misleading news through the “wisdom of crowds”—a previously much-lauded feature of the internet—actually operate on British social media?

To answer these questions, the authors designed a survey and asked Opinium Research to administer it to an online sample representative of the UK adult population, based on key demographic variables such as age, gender, and region of residence. 2,005 respondents completed the questionnaire.

Among other findings, the report reveals that:

  • More than half of British social media users (57.7 percent) came across news in the past month on social media that they thought was not fully accurate.
  • 42.8 percent of news sharers admit to sharing inaccurate or false news; 17.3 percent admit to sharing news they thought was made up when they shared it. These users are more likely to be male, younger, and more interested in politics.
  • A substantial amount of the sharing on social media of inaccurate or made up news goes unchallenged.

O3C's introduction to the report says:

"Very little is known about the motivations that drive people to share political news on social media and how these might be contributing to changes in our online civic culture. If we can learn more about the things people try to achieve when they share news online—and the extent to which these motivations might reinforce or undermine the distribution of false or misleading information—liberal democracies can start to think about how they can reduce important online harms. This report is the first to address these issues in Britain on the basis of a survey of the news sharing habits on social media of a representative sample of the British public."

For more information and to download the full 32-page report, visit the O3C website.