Survey: Ahead of Elections, EU Internet Users Regularly Encounter Online Misinformation
Think back to the last time you saw a political post on social media that really got your blood boiling. Maybe it was so outrageously false that you felt confused and frustrated by the person who posted it. Or maybe you liked it, and shared it with your friends, only to feel the shame later of someone pointing out that you’d been fooled by clickbait.
This isn’t hypothetical. Mozilla sent out a survey earlier this year asking more than 14,000 European Mozillians (a portion of our email subscribers) from over 20 countries for their opinions about misinformation. And nearly 84 percent of them suspected (or knew for certain) that they had seen misinformation while using the internet that very week.
Other key findings from our study include:
- Nearly 4 out of every 5 people surveyed said that they were very concerned by online misinformation
- When asked who was best equipped to solve the problem of online misinformation, “commercial internet platforms” (like Google, Facebook, and Twitter) ranked highest with 40% of the vote — followed by “civil society” (24%) and “governments” (17%)
- Though companies like Facebook claim that data collection and tracking of users is essential because users appreciate being provided more relevant content in their feeds, 88% of those surveyed don’t think that data collection benefits them
While misinformation is a grim subject, here at Mozilla we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can fix the things that make our internet less healthy. So it was encouraging to see that the majority of those surveyed agreed that misinformation is something that can be fixed (31% said “yes,” and 49% said “maybe”).
On the topics of data collection and commercial platforms fighting misinformation: These two problems go hand in hand. It’s no coincidence that users are delivered ads and content that gets their blood boiling, because companies are incentivised to collect as much data as possible about their users. This data supports the very business models of major digital media platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, which rely on delivering users advertisements that they are likely to click on.
With big elections happening all over the world in the coming months, it’s time for companies to take a stand. We need to give control back to the users of social media platforms, so that together we can push companies to do the right thing before it’s too late.
By calling for greater transparency of political advertising that happens on social media, we can disrupt one of the key enablers of online misinformation, illuminating the dark places where these actions are flourishing. Political ad transparency is just one of the many areas that need improvement, and transparency alone won’t solve misinformation problems or election hacking. But at Mozilla, we believe transparency is a fundamental piece — because people need accurate information to make informed decisions.
That’s why over the next few months, Mozilla will be leading a push to get tech companies to become much more transparent about the targeted advertising that happens on their platforms, and the mass data collection that enables it. We started this work in February, when Mozilla and 37 other organizations sent a public letter to Facebook demanding more transparency around political advertising.
We hope that together we can work to defend the integrity of elections in Europe and across the world.