Fake news on social media platforms is undermining trust in democracy, new data shows
Fake news on social media platforms such as Facebook undermines trust in democracy, study finds.
Respondents expressed widespread concern about its destabilizing effects.
The fear is not that people believe bogus content, but the wider damage it has on people’s trust in each other and faith in society.
It is not necessary that those who read them believe that the false information has negative effects.
And the fear is that the existence of fake news will taint the democratic process.
Since the UK Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016, fake news has become a major source of concern around the world.
University of Birmingham researcher Dr Merten Reglitz said institutions such as the European Commission have found fake news to be a threat to their values and processes.
He said: “Reliable polls show that fake news leads to a loss of trust among citizens in one another – a major cause of destabilizing democratic processes and undermining the benefits that morally justify democratic institutions.”
Dr. Reglitz also said that mutual distrust can have serious consequences on our lives.
He explained, “As an individual, if my distrust of other people’s competence and sincerity reaches critical levels, I will stop trusting them to be able to make joint decisions that fundamentally shape and determine my life.
“For example, if many people are misinformed about the risks and benefits of vaccines, they may elect politicians who restrict or oppose access to vaccines.
“My options then become limited and my health remains at risk from circulating viruses, even though I rightly believe that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh their risks.”
Earlier this year, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen criticized the Irish government for not doing more to crack down on big tech.
Ms Haugen appeared virtually before a Dail watchdog and said Ireland had a unique role to play in holding social media companies to account, as many of the biggest tech companies have their European headquarters here .