Four-fifths of citizens want more government communication in face of fake news

Half the population believe they have been exposed to misinformation during the coronavirus pandemic and want to see more official TV ads

Credit: Matt Crossick/Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment

Almost half of Brits claim they have been exposed to “fake news” during the coronavirus pandemic, new polling has found.

A new report from the IPPR think tank has found 78% of the public would welcome more television adverts from the government to inform them about the coronavirus pandemic amid growing fears of the spread of misinformation.

It comes after warnings from public health officials and ministers that false claims about the virus and other health conditions were being spread widely on social media sites and through messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp.

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But a new Savanta ComRes poll for the group found 48% of the British public believed they had already been exposed to “fake news” about the pandemic, as they warned the information could cause “unnecessary panic, encourage bad health choices and put lives at risk”.

And the think tank said that while 75% of the public said they regarded the NHS website as the most trusted source of health care information, people were increasingly relying on social media platforms for news, making it more likely they would be exposed to “harmful ‘fake news’ on major health issues”.

Dean Hochlaf, lead author of the report, said: “Covid-19 has reminded us that when it comes to health, knowledge is power. The internet has been a powerful tool in communicating helpful NHS advice on how to halt the spread of this terrible disease, but misinformation remains a constant menace online that endangers lives.

“Unfortunately, conspiracy theories are a common side effect of all public health issues and crises. It’s therefore paramount that the government continues to play an active role in combatting misinformation, even after the pandemic.”

To combat the spread of misinformation, the IPPR is urging the NHS and social media firms to form a new partnership to ensure people are shown accurate public health messages.

Meanwhile, they called on ministers to speed up the rollout of personal care plans for people with newly diagnosed conditions to ensure they are not forced to rely on the internet for information.

Hochlaf added: “Official health information is always beneficial, so the government should step up its efforts to ensure that the public is always up to date and well informed about any health threats we may face.”


Sam Trendall

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