63% Asians want government intervention to curb fake news: Reuters Institute Digital News Report

The seventh annual Reuters Institute Digital News Report explores the changing environment around news across countries

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jun 20, 2018 8:50 AM

The seventh annual Reuters Institute Digital News Report explores the changing environment around news across countries. This year’s report comes amid continuing concerns about ‘fake news’ and about the role of tech companies (platforms) in facilitating the spread of misinformation.

The report looks in detail at the changing shape of social media and the increasing importance of messaging apps for news. It is based on a survey of more than 74,000 people in 37 markets.
Below are some important takeaways from Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018:

Social Media

• While the use of Facebook for news has declined, there has been a rise in the usage of alternative platforms such as WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat.

•WhatsApp and Instagram have taken off in Latin America and parts of Asia. Snapchat is making progress in parts of Europe and the United States, particularly with younger users.

• Rise in the use of messaging apps for news as consumers look for more private (and less confrontational) spaces to communicate. WhatsApp is now used for news by around half of our sample of online users in Malaysia (54%) and Brazil (48%) and by around third in Spain (36%) and Turkey (30%).

Trusting Brands and Issue of Fake News

• Across all countries, the average level of trust in the news in general remains relatively stable at 44%, with just over half (51%) agreeing that they trust the news media they themselves use most of the time. By contrast, 34% of respondents say they trust news they find via search and fewer than a quarter (23%) say they trust the news they find on social media. 

• In recent years we’ve seen the emergence of a number of alternative, populist, or partisan websites that have grown rapidly in some countries largely through free social media distribution. In most cases these sites have a political or ideological agenda and their user base tends to passionately share these views.

• Over half (54%) agree or strongly agree that they are concerned about what is real and fake on the internet. This is highest in countries like Brazil (85%), Spain (69%), and the United States (64%) where polarised political situations combine with high social media use. It is lowest in Germany (37%) and the Netherlands (30%) where recent elections were largely untroubled by concerns over fake content

• Most respondents believe that publishers (75%) and platforms (71%) have the biggest responsibility to fix problems of fake and unreliable news. This is because much of the news they complain about relates to biased or inaccurate news from the mainstream media rather than news that is completely made up or distributed by foreign powers.

• There is some public appetite for government intervention to stop ‘fake news’, especially in Europe (60%) and Asia (63%). By contrast, only four in ten Americans (41%) thought that government should do more.

• People with higher levels of news literacy tend to prefer newspaper brands over TV, and use social media for news very differently from the wider population. They are also more cautious about interventions by governments to deal with misinformation.

• The report finds that brands with a broadcasting background and long heritage tend to be trusted most, with popular newspapers and digital-born brands trusted least.


• The average number of people paying for online news has edged up in many countries, with significant increases coming from Norway (+4 percentage points), Sweden (+6), and Finland (+4). All these countries have a small number of publishers, the majority of whom are relentlessly pursuing a variety of paywall strategies. But in more complex and fragmented markets, there are still many publishers who offer online news for free.
• Last year’s significant increase in subscription in the United States (the so-called Trump Bump) has been maintained, while donations and donation-based memberships are emerging as a significant alternative strategy in Spain, and the UK as well as in the United States. These payments are closely linked with political belief and come disproportionately from the young.

• Privacy concerns have reignited the growth in ad-blocking software. More than a quarter now block on any device (27%) but that ranges from 42% in Greece to 13% in South Korea.

Source of News

• Television remains a critical source of news for many – but declines in annual audience continue to raise new questions about the future role of public broadcasters and their ability to attract the next generation of viewers.

• Podcasts are becoming popular across the world due to better content and easier distribution. They are almost twice as popular in the United States (33%) as they are in the UK (18%). Young people are far more likely to use podcasts than listen to speech radio.

• Voice-activated digital assistants like the Amazon Echo and Google Home continue to grow rapidly, opening new opportunities for news audio. Usage has more than doubled in the United States, Germany, and the UK with around half of those who have such devices using them for news and information.

•The fastest growing gateway to news over the last three years has been mobile news alerts. These resonate with younger users who frequently start their day with the lock screen. They are also starting to use artificial intelligence (AI) to make them more relevant.

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