Italy’s Communications Regulator AgCom Says 2017 Was The Year Of Fake News Globally

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Year 2017 was the year of the fake news on a global level, according to a latest report released by Italy’s national communications regular AgCom. The report, based on 2007 survey of 14,000 people, has come at a time when Italian people will be selecting a new government in in less than two weeks.

“Worldwide, 2017 was the year of the emergence of pathological phenomena such as fake news, and …the increasing spread of disinformation through online platforms,” the report said.

According to AgCom, Italy was no exception in 2017 in terms of fake news emerging on social media.

Some popular examples of fake news of 2017 include: hurricane Irma being of “category six,” misleading photographs circulated after a terror attack in London on 22 March, fake photographs appearing on social media following bomb explosion at the Manchester Arena in May 2017, etc.

According to AgCom, while most Italians still rely on TV, radio, and newspapers for news and information, a growing number of people are now using internet and social media to keep them updated about latest happening in their country and across the world.

AgCom report reveals that about 80 percent of people in Italy check the news on a daily basis. Nine in ten Italians use television as a source of information and news, but only 70 percent watch it on a daily basis.

Sixty percent of the respondents revealed that the read a newspaper at least once in a month.  Seventeen percent people said they read a newspaper daily.

Twenty-five percent people said they use radio as a source of news.

The survey revealed that social media is quickly becoming a popular source of news and information in Italy. Seven in ten Italians now use internet and social networks for information, with 42 percent using it on a daily basis.

The survey found that a growing number of people in Italy now rely on “algorithmic sources”—such as search engines, social media and blogs—instead of getting news from established news organizations.

Facebook was found to be a favorite social media platform as a news source (used by one in three Italians). Facebook is followed by Instagram and Twitter.

According to AgCom report, relying on online algorithms for news could be dangerous as it leads to “pathological forms such as polarization, which sparks the formation of ideological bubbles on the web leading to the spread of fake news, hate speech and disinformation.”

AgCom warns that “algorithmic sources” often benefit exaggerated headlines or extreme viewpoints. Similarly, social networks give priority to posts that are shared by friends or which receive a lot of engagement, leaving Italians “more exposed to the danger of disinformation, to confusion between real facts and fake news, and ideological bubbles or echo chambers.”