Trust in social media and written press falters across Europe during fake news crisis

Trust in new media and the written press falls amid a fake news crisis

Levels of trust in traditional media are increasing across Europe as the public increasingly questions the veracity of what they see and read online during times of mass political change.

According to a new EBU study, Trust in Media 2017, which includes results from around 1,000 interviews in 33 countries across Europe, broadcast media remains the most trusted media throughout Europe. Broadcasters including the BBC and Channel 4 in the UK have launched fact-checking divisions this year in order to convince viewers of the accuracy of broadcast news reporting versus online environments.

Radio is the most trusted medium, trusted by 59% of EU citizens, closely followed by TV at 50%. In the last five years, trust in both media has continued to grow across Europe.

While trust in the written press has also increased over the last five years, it is generally still not seen as a trusted medium in most European countries. Of the 33 countries interviewed, over one third of countries trust the written press the least of all news mediums.

For its part, the UK press has faced criticism for publishing hyper-partisan headlines that "stretch facts to the absolute limit", breeding increasing levels of mistrust among readers, according to Buzzfeed's political editor Jim Waterson.

Meanwhile trust in social networks is at its lowest ever level, likely fuelled by a global fake news crisis that has come to the fore during times of political change. Only 36% of EU citizens tend to trust the internet and a mere 21% of EU citizens say they trust social networks. Online social networks are not trusted in any of the 33 countries covered by the study.

Despite trust levels in social faltering, research from IPG's agency Golin published this week shows that social media is now judged as the most relevant source of information for consumers worldwide, trumping TV, word-of-mouth, newspapers and online news.

Roberto Suarez, head of the EBU’s Media Intelligence Service, said: “It is reassuring that the public’s level of trust in broadcast media is actually increasing across Europe.

“In this post-truth world, it is encouraging to see the public can differentiate between competing sources of news and have chosen to put their trust in more traditional media.

“As public service broadcasters, it is the job of our Members to cherish and maintain that level of trust and continue to provide impartial, independent reporting to counter the spread of fake news and the limitation of filter bubbles on social media.”

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Jessica Goodfellow

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