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In data: How Britain’s anxiety over fake news skyrocketed

As online news—and especially social media—takes over, there’s rising concern around the world about distinguishing genuine stories from fakes

By Chris Tilbury   October 2019

Citizens wanting to find out what was going on used to stick their nose in a paper and digest it over breakfast. But today—as the Reuters Institute Digital News Report confirms—they’re more likely to swipe through stories, analysis and comment on a smartphone or tablet, at any time of day.

The proportion of Britons getting their news from print has nearly halved in just six years, at the same time as reliance on social media has doubled. News websites have been widely used for a little longer, but it is striking that these are now a more important outlet for current affairs even than once-dominant television. Take them together with social media, and fully three-quarters of us are now consuming news digitally.

The forward march of the information age? Don’t bank on it. Even as they become addicted to online news and views, Britons are getting warier about what they read: 70 per cent worry about distinguishing genuine stories from fake news, a figure up by 12 percentage points in just two years. This puts the UK somewhere between Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Donald Trump’s America in the global league table of disbelief.

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