17Jul2019
Fake News Statistics - How Big is the Problem?

Fake News Statistics - How Big is the Problem?

45% of adults in the UK believe they encounter fake news every single day….

Fake news is big news right now. But what does it even mean and how big a deal is it? We’re going to take a look at fake news statistics, its impact and what measures we can take to ensure the news we read is accurate.

Click here to see the infographic.

 

What is “Fake News?”

Fake news is inaccurate information spread as “news” typically online. There’s an important difference between fake news and simply inaccurate reporting. Fake news implies that the misinformation is absolutely deliberate, whereas small reporting mistakes in the media are generally mistakes that are subsequently corrected by the media outlet later.

 

Fake News Statistics

So just how big a deal is it? Let’s take a look at some fake news statistics.

We ran a survey of 1,000 people in the UK to find out how often they believe they encounter fake news online.

In addition, we dove into Google Trends and search data to find out how popular a topic this is across the globe and analysed other data sources too.

Our key findings in summary:

  • 45% of the British public believe they encounter fake news online every single day (data from our own Google Survey run from 12th to 14th July 2019)
  • From 2015 to 2018, there was a 22% increase in IPSO rulings resulting in a declaration of a breach relating to the accuracy
  • At its peak, there were around 200 million monthly engagements with  fake news stories on Facebook

Click here to see the infographic.

 

Public Perception of Fake News

  • 45% of UK adults believe they encounter fake news online every single day.

We used Google Surveys to ask 1,000 adults in the UK the following question.

“How often do you believe you encounter “fake news” online?”

Here’s how they responded.

 

survey-fake-news

  • 45.43% believe they encounter fake news online every single day
  • A further 19.64% believe they encounter fake news online at least once a week
  • Just a fifth believe they never encounter fake news

In other words, the majority of the population believe they encounter fake news online regularly.

 

IPSO Complaints About Accuracy

Key findings:

  • The number of complaints made to IPSO relating to accuracy almost doubled from 2016 to 2017 from 5,836 to 10,405
  • The number of complaints relating to accuracy dropped again in  2018 to 2,150
  • The number of complaints resulting in a breach being ruled peaked at 61 in 2018

IPSO publishes complaints made to it about newspapers and magazines it regulates. While inaccurate news isn’t always the same as fake news and isn’t generally deliberate, we assessed whether IPSO is identifying more breaches.

Here’s what we found:

Period

Total Complaints Where “Accuracy” was a Part of the Complaint

Total Number of Complaints Concerning Accuracy Resulting in IPSO Declaring a Breach  

Number of Complaints Concerning Accuracy Resulting in IPSO No Breach

Jan to Dec 2015

3,915

50

161

Jan to Dec 2016

5,836

44

119

Jan to Dec 2017

10,405*

49

142

Jan to Dec 2018

2,150

61

92

 

*Spike in complaints but over 6,000 of these complaints were rejected.

Other outcomes are possible (hence breach, no breach and breach do not add up to the total complaints. Other outcomes include the complaint being found to be outside of the remit of IPSO, not being pursued or being resolved through mediation. Full details of all complaints are available at https://www.ipso.co.uk/rulings-and-resolution-statements/complaints-statistics/#

 

Fake News Google Trends Data

Based on Google Trends data, which looks at the popularity of search terms, we can see the following “fake news” as a search query globally:

 

fake-news-google-trends-global

  • The search term began to surge in popularity in November 2016 
  • It peaked in 2018
  • Searches have been in decline globally since March March 2019 but it remains a query (as of July 2019) over 3 times as popular as it was in October 2016

If we look at the UK specifically, a similar pattern applies.

 

fake-news-google-trends-uk

Within the UK, the query is particularly popular in:

  • Portsmouth
  • Oxford
  • Cambridge
  • Liverpool
  • Cardiff

fake-news-uk-cities-google-trends

 

Search Volume at a City Level

We used kwfinder.com to pull data about the number of searches for “fake news” by city in the UK taking an average of the past 3 years to give a monthly search figure.

We then:

  • Multiplied the figure by 12 to give an approximate annual figure
  • Took population data for each city from the most recent Census
  • Calculated the percentage of people making a search in each of those places based on an assumption that each search  came from a different individual. While this may not be the case, using the same methodology for each city allows us to determine the town or city in which people are the likeliest to make a search for “Fake news.” 

Our findings:

 

City/Town

"Fake news" Searches/Month

"Fake News" Searches Per Year

Population

% of People Making a Search (Assuming Searches Equally Divided) Each Year

Oxford

110

1320

159994

0.83%

Cambridge

70

840

145818

0.58%

Bath

40

480

94782

0.51%

Manchester

210

2520

510746

0.49%

Belfast

110

1320

280211

0.47%

Exeter

40

480

113507

0.42%

Dundee

50

600

147285

0.41%

Newcastle upon Tyne

90

1080

268064

0.40%

Colchester

40

480

119441

0.40%

Slough

50

600

155298

0.39%

Edinburgh

140

1680

459366

0.37%

Brighton

70

840

229700

0.37%

Worcester

30

360

100153

0.36%

Lincoln

30

360

100160

0.36%

Leeds

140

1680

474632

0.35%

London

2400

28800

8173941

0.35%

Salford

30

360

103886

0.35%

Glasgow

170

2040

590507

0.35%

Rochdale

30

360

107926

0.33%

Cardiff

90

1080

335145

0.32%

Norwich

50

600

186682

0.32%

Bristol

140

1680

535907

0.31%

Bolton

50

600

194189

0.31%

Aberdeen

50

600

195021

0.31%

Leicester

110

1320

443760

0.30%

Peterborough

40

480

161707

0.30%

Huddersfield

40

480

162949

0.29%

Nottingham

70

840

289301

0.29%

Northampton

50

600

215773

0.28%

Coventry

70

840

325949

0.26%

Bournemouth

40

480

187503

0.26%

Plymouth

50

600

234982

0.26%

Sheffield

110

1320

518090

0.25%

Oldham

20

240

96555

0.25%

Liverpool

110

1320

552267

0.24%

Birmingham

210

2520

1085810

0.23%

Wigan

20

240

103608

0.23%

Crawley

20

240

106943

0.22%

Maidstone

20

240

107627

0.22%

Sutton Coldfield

20

240

109015

0.22%

Eastbourne

20

240

109185

0.22%

Reading

40

480

218705

0.22%

Warrington

30

360

165456

0.22%

Sunderland

30

360

174286

0.21%

Cheltenham

20

240

116447

0.21%

Portsmouth

40

480

238137

0.20%

Gateshead

20

240

120046

0.20%

Swindon

30

360

182441

0.20%

Solihull

20

240

123187

0.19%

Southampton

40

480

253651

0.19%

Derby

40

480

255394

0.19%

Wolverhampton

40

480

265178

0.18%

Sale

20

240

134022

0.18%

Telford

20

240

142723

0.17%

Birkenhead

20

240

142968

0.17%

Ipswich

20

240

144957

0.17%

Poole

20

240

154718

0.16%

Bradford

40

480

349561

0.14%

Southend-on-Sea

20

240

175547

0.14%

Stoke-on-Trent

30

360

270726

0.13%

Kingston upon Hull

30

360

284321

0.13%

St. Helens

10

120

102885

0.12%

Woking

10

120

105367

0.11%

Luton

20

240

211228

0.11%

Stockport

10

120

105878

0.11%

Basildon

10

120

107123

0.11%

Basingstoke

10

120

107355

0.11%

Worthing

10

120

109120

0.11%

Rotherham

10

120

109691

0.11%

Doncaster

10

120

109805

0.11%

Chelmsford

10

120

110507

0.11%

Blackburn

10

120

117963

0.10%

High Wycombe

10

120

120256

0.10%

Newport (Wales)

10

120

128060

0.09%

Watford

10

120

131982

0.09%

Gloucester

10

120

136362

0.09%

Blackpool

10

120

147,663

0.08%

Milton Keynes

10

120

171750

0.07%

Middlesbrough

10

120

174700

0.07%

Swansea

10

120

179485

0.07%

 

In short, our findings imply that the cities where people are most likely to be making this search are (in order):

  1. Oxford
  2. Cambridge
  3. Bath
  4. Manchester
  5. Belfast

 

Facebook and Fake News Statistics

Facebook has repeatedly found itself under pressure to do more to eradicate fake news peddling on its platform. And indeed, Facebook is where millions of interactions on fake news stories take place.

In fact, in the final 3 months of the 2016 US Presidential Campaign, (August 2016 up to election day), fake news stories got more interaction on Facebook than mainstream media stories did.

The research  from Buzzfeed suggests the following: 

Image source

facebook-engagement-fake-news

But engagement with fake news is falling on Facebook and fake accounts are being tackled.

  • In Q1 of 2018, Facebook removed 837 million pieces of spam (Source)
  • In Q1 2018, Facebook also removed 583 million fake accounts (source)
  • In 2016, known fake news content was getting around 200 million engagements on Facebook each month (source)
  • As of September 2018, this is down to around 70 million engagements each month  (Source)

 

Fake News in Summary

So the statistics do suggest a surge in interest in fake news from 2016, with a continued interest in the topic and still plenty of engagement on social platforms with known fake news content.

But with social media networks taking more action and consumers of content increasingly aware of fake news, we’re starting to see engagement fall.

That said, the majority of Brits still believe they encounter fake news at least weekly, with almost half declaring they feel they see such “news” every single day.

So there remains a long way to go to tackle the issue of fake news.