So much has changed in the Internet ecosystem over the past decade, that we wanted to see how people were faring online today, in the era of bot farms, deep fakes and mass disinformation in general.
May 16, 2022
Internet users find online information untrustworthy and desire better ways than those currently available to get reliable content, a survey by the Britannica site Procon.org has found.
Most also say, with varying degrees of conviction, that they often can’t tell if the information they find on the Internet is true or false.
Among the most significant findings were the following:
Only 25% of respondents (mostly students) believed the Internet has not caused a decline in their attention span or ability to concentrate.
- Nearly 60% of respondents admitted difficulty in determining if information online was truthful; 43% believed much of the content on the Internet was false; and only 19% believed online information was true.
- 77% desired a more effective way of managing and filtering information on the Internet to differentiate between fact, opinion, and overt disinformation.
The survey was conducted in conjunction with an article on the effects of the Internet, both good and bad, on Britannica’s nonpartisan website ProCon.org, which researches and highlights the major arguments, pro and con, of contentious public issues. The site asked readers for their thoughts on how the Internet affects their brains and whether online information is reliable and trustworthy.
“So much has changed in the Internet ecosystem over the past decade, that we wanted to see how people were faring online today, in the era of bot farms, deep fakes and mass disinformation in general,” said Theodore Pappas, executive editor at Britannica. He said that the results are being released now for Internet Day, which is observed on May 17.
Given that fake information is a large and growing problem, Britannica recommends that publishers, media companies and content providers redouble their efforts to maintain high editorial standards and build reputations for trustworthiness with which consumers, educators, and students will feel comfortable.
“At Britannica, we’re trying to do our part to combat disinformation by making our reliable, fact-checked content both easy to find and easy to use,” said Pappas. “For example, we’ve partnered with YouTube to highlight,right under videos tied to conspiracy theories, our handy backgrounder articles on the established known facts of the subject at hand. We also offer free services like ‘Britannica Insights, a browser extension that brings up trustworthy information, and features like Demystified, which provides revealing answers to common questions, such as what’s the difference between veins and arteries, and does listening to Mozart in the womb really make babies smarter.”
Britannica also provides resources to educators to help them teach students critical thinking skills that will enable them to better navigate the information ecosystem, said Pappas.
The survey was conducted on the ProCon.org website between April 2021 and April 2022 with 13,403 respondents. To see the complete results,visit ProCon.org. The survey is ongoing, so users may still contribute their own responses by completing it at the site.
The Britannica Group is a global knowledge leader. A pioneer in digital learning since the early 1980s, the company today serves the needs of students, educators, lifelong learners and professionals by providing curriculum products, language-study courses and digital encyclopedias through its extensive product line.
The company has continued to redefine information discovery and education technology. Its digital properties attract more than 6 billion annual pageviews and 130 million casual learners every month, and it serves 150 million students in 156 countries and in 16 languages. Britannica’s mission is to inspire curiosity and the joy of learning. The company is headquartered in Chicago.
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