Digital false information at scale in the European Union: Current state of research in various disciplines, and future directions

Petra de Place Bak

PhD Researcher

Aarhus University

About

The aim was to find out what we know about false information on digital platforms in the EU, and to focus on large scale research that is aimed at identifying overall patterns.

The purpose of this paper was to create an overview of what is known about false information on digital media in the EU. As of now, research on false information remain mostly focused on the US and UK, because large scale data sets are available and tools for computational analysis are mostly trained in English. This is two reasons why there is a bias toward English datasets. Thus, we wanted to find out which regions were covered in the EU, by which fields, and also try to point future research in the direction of countries that we know very little about.

Key Findings

Most research is conducted on the US by default and we could benefit from a stronger focus on the EU, as studies indicate that there are regional differences in the characteristics of false information: for example, how susceptible are citizens to false information, what are the main topics of false information, and is it politically driven? Despite our focus on the EU in the keyword selection for the literature search, the UK and the US remained in the top three most studied countries. Another interesting finding: Italy is the most studied European country, which might be due to a focus on Italy during the Covid pandemic. Predictably, Twitter is the most studied platform because it is the easiest to collect data from. We conducted a systematic literature review. This means that we formulated relevance criteria, such as keywords related to misinformation (e.g., disinformation, conspiracy, fake news), timeframe, and countries. Afterwards, we chose a search engine and filtered the results, which gave us a sample of 93 papers. This sample of academic publications included in the review consisted of journal articles, proceedings from computer science, and a few book chapters.

How to use

Focus on regional basis when trying to combat misinformation. I think this is what is needed for policy makers to effectively target their initiatives towards their own region's characteristics. In addition, there could be a focus on making large social media platforms friendlier when it comes to sharing data with researchers, because as of now Twitter is the most accessible.

Want to read the full paper? It is available open access

P. de Place Bak, et al. (2022). ‘Digital false information at scale in the European Union: Current state of research in various disciplines, and future directions’. SAGEĀ 

About this research

    This journal article was part of a collaborative effort

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    Jessica Gabriele Walter

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    Anja Bechmann

    European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO)

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    UN Sustainable Development Goals

    This research contributes to the following SDGs

    About this research

      European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO)

      This paper was co-authored

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      Jessica Gabriele Walter

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      Anja Bechmann

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      What it means

      One cannot expect a one-size-fits-all model on how to combat misinformation to be effective, because information environments differ on regional basis.

      Methodology

      The methodology used was systematic review of academic literature.

      Glossary

      Digital False Information
      False information is a phenomenon that dates long before digital media, but digital media can give anyone a voice to state their opinions and share information independent of how truthful that information is. This is why we see false information such as fake news can sometimes travel fast on digital media platforms.
      False Information
      A cover term for other related terms, such as fake news, misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories.

      Let your research make a social impact

      Carmen Gabriela Lupu prepared this research following an interview with Petra de Place Bak.