More than 90% of UK public have encountered misinformation online, study says

The vast majority of the UK general public have reported witnessing misinformation on social media, according to a new study.

Research from the Alan Turing Institute found that 94% of those surveyed said they had seen misinformation online.

The study follows a warning from the institute’s Centre for Emerging Technology and Security (Cetas) that AI-generated misinformation could be used to create broad distrust and confusion among voters ahead of the General Election, and called for regulators to do more.

The latest research found many people were unaware of how to respond to misinformation, including how best to analyse and verify content they see, and warned that more needed to be done to educate the public on the tools available to them.

The majority of those asked (72%) said they were comfortable with social media platforms using their own methods to stop the spread of misinformation, but very few knew of ways they could personally counter such content.

The study said only 3% said they had taken a media literacy course, and only 7% said they had used self-help resources.

Dr Florence Enock, senior research associate in online safety at the Alan Turing Institute, said: “With the huge increase in technologies that can quickly and convincingly create and spread false content online, it is critical that the public are equipped with the right tools to protect themselves.

“However, our research highlights that most people do not use available resources even though they are shown to be effective.

“It is crucial that more is done to encourage people to use misinformation interventions, such as media literacy courses, and that online platforms provide their users with effective and accessible ways to report misinformation when they see it.”

Some social media sites have begun to label AI-generated content in an effort to help users identify potential deepfakes.

Dr Jonathan Bright, head of online safety at the Alan Turing Institute, said: “Concern about misinformation is undoubtedly extremely high.

“The lack of trust in mainstream news organisations demonstrates a wider scepticism of information more generally.

“It’s really important that people feel they can have confidence in information they receive from reliable sources, particularly during a crucial election year for the UK and the US. It’s clear there’s a lot of work to be done to instil confidence in people.”