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62% of internet users saw content they believed was ‘untrue or doubtful’ in 2021

The Independent logo The Independent 06/12/2021 James Ward
A woman uses a laptop to browse the internet (PA) - PA Archive © PA Archive A woman uses a laptop to browse the internet (PA) - PA Archive

Almost two thirds of internet users saw online content they considered to be “untrue or doubtful” in 2021, new Central Statistics Office (CSO) data shows.

Some 62% of users saw content including articles, videos and images on online news sites and social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube which they did not believe to be factual.

Of those who came across such content, 64% checked its veracity by checking sources online, or taking part in discussions about the content.

CSO statistician Maureen Delamere said: “In 2021, we are online more than ever, working from home and relying on technology and digital services.

“Our everyday lives are becoming far more digital and we are exposed to a very large amount of information, some of which is true, some of which is clearly untrue and some of which requires further evaluation and investigation.

“In 2021, more than six in 10 internet users saw information or content on online news sites or social media that they considered doubtful or untrue, of which almost two-thirds (64%) checked the truthfulness of the content.

“The main way people checked the truthfulness of online content was to check sources and information, with 93% of such persons choosing this method of checking the content integrity.

“Respondents to the survey could choose more than one option to verify information seen online.


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“Discussing the information offline with other persons or using sources not on the internet was carried out by 47% of internet users, while some 15% cited following or taking part in online discussion regarding the content.

“For those who did not check the truthfulness of content they saw online, the most common reason (80%) was that they already knew the information content or source was unreliable.”

The figures also show that older generations tend to be more cautious with sharing their personal data online.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of internet users aged 30 to 59 years refused use of their personal data for advertising purposes, compared with 42% of persons in the 16 to 29 years age group

Only 37% of people said they read a website’s privacy policy statement before providing personal information online.

Websites that collect personal information require a privacy policy statement, but only 37% of internet users read them before providing personal information online.

Maureen Delamere, CSO

Ms Delamere said: “As our internet usage continues to increase, so too does the amount of personal information and data which is made available online.

“In 2021, almost six in 10 (59%) internet users restricted access to their geographical location when using online platforms, while nearly six in 10 (58%) internet users refused allowing the use of personal data for advertising purposes.

Internet users were less likely, however, to limit access to their profile or content on social networking sites or shared online storage, with just under half (47%) of internet users limiting such access.”

She added: “Websites that collect personal information require a privacy policy statement, but only 37% of internet users read them before providing personal information online.

“Similarly, even though everyone has the right to access the digital personal data collected by websites or search engines administrator or providers, just 6% of internet users requested access to their online personal data to update or delete it.”ends

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