What do citizens think about the threat of disinformation? Do they agree that disinformation (i.e. deliberately deceptive information) and misinformation (i.e. unintentionally false information) threaten social cohesion and increase polarisation and extremism. Do they worry that false information could undermine free elections, public security, and public health (as during the COVID-19 pandemic)?

In order to find out, Debating Europe launched a series of focus groups to explore people’s attitudes towards disinformation as a threat to democracy.

Want to learn more about disinformation and misinformation? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):

What do our readers think? During one focus group, Julia from Germany told us she fears social media has created a ‘post-truth’ world where “everyone has their own truth”:

On social media you cannot discern what is the generally agreed upon fact. You can only see who is the loudest, who has the most viral video. You cannot make these determinations any more about what is a fact, what isn’t. This is where truth becomes not objective anymore. Everyone has their own truth.

Next up, Klaus from Estonia told us he fears content algorithms are one of the worst things to happen to our democracies:

If you want to restore our media environment and our information spaces to anything that is reasonable, that is not just full of conspiracy theories and information bubbles, then we really need to do something about the fact that so many people get their information and their news from social media. I believe that social media is one of the worst things that ever happened to our abilities to understand the world. It works to feed us what we essentially want, it finds out like greatest weaknesses and micro-targets us with the most optimal propaganda. It is like custom made for making us incredible radicalised and incredibly ill-informed.

Education is often put forward as a solution to the problem of false information. However, Joao from Portugal told us he fears that education takes too long:

Education is often put forward as a solution to the problem of false information (disinformation and misinformation). However, Joao from Portugal says: “Thinking about short term results, like five years 10 years, I don’t think we’re going to see that much of a difference from education.”

Finally, Andrei from Romania told us he would like to see tougher laws against spreading false information:

I would literally outlaw TV channels, news outlets and journalists who in the past 10 years have stoked extremist views and have clearly lied to the public.

To get a response, we put all four of the above comments to:

💬 Alice Stollmeyer, Founder and Executive Director, Defend Democracy

💬 Chris Kremidas-Courtney, Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence, Friends of Europe

See the video at the top of this post for their responses.

Are we living in a ‘post-truth’ world? If so, what does this mean for democracy? Is education the solution? Is there anything that can be done on a shorter timescale than education? hould there be stronger laws against spreading false information? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: BigStock – (c) plahotya
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.



93 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Grzegorz

    Main stream media is one big LIE…

  2. avatar
    Konrad

    Social Media are mostly not the problem. Most people are able to differentiate. And if not, who cares. Mainstream Media and Governments are the problem and are the ones who post most fake news and are professionally misinforming. As simple as that.

  3. avatar
    Ronald

    At least 90 % of the “disinformation” is coming from the msm some of which is directly financed by governments,to help hide their corruption and criminality

  4. avatar
    Olivier

    The most important desinformation comes from our government itself…. Remember the “stade de France” information story

  5. avatar
    Cobie

    We live in a fake world creatid by the media

  6. avatar
    Oscar

    No.Social media has not made it worse in any way.Actually it was worse before.In Sweden for example there used to be that only state approved media was allowed.In the Soviet union there was a state owned and controlled newspaper called “Pravda” meaning “truth” which was as obvious of a propaganda organ as there ever was.The big media outlets and the state owned or controlled media are probably still the most dangerous spreaders of “misinformation”.Take Sweden as an example again.Although media is now supposedly “free”.There is not a free market for the mass media in Sweden.For starters we have a state owned media empire (so called “public service”) which is one of the biggest and most expensive in the world counting per capita.In addition to that all other big news outlets also get a big part of their funding from the state.Literally eating out of the states hand.And you do not bite the hand that feeds you.The politicians in power are the only ones that should be scared by social and alternative media.The people should be scared when social and alternative media are suppressed!Freedom of opinion, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are essential cornerstones of any democracy.

  7. avatar
    Hugo

    We live in a CIA world surrounded by the real world.

  8. avatar
    Tim

    Oh, yeah, deffo. And there has been a strong rise in disinformation in the past two years, especially regarding medical science. And right now about the Ukrainian war, too, at times in the most excruciatingly racist and hurtful ways. And never forget the “SaTaNiStS wAnT tO eAt OuR cHiLdReN, aAaAaAaH!” bit. The utmost retarded shit comes along, and the most retarded thing is, most of these people think to know everything after 10 minutes of google “research” and watching some youtube videos, only listening to what they want to hear. Ironically these people call the vaxxed ones “scared little sheep.” While it is not at all us who’re being completely paranoid about vaccinations, and by extent the entire medical world. Nor are we entirely distrustful about our local governments; it’s one thing to critisize them for the mistakes they make, but another to entirely lose it and do nothing else but thinking they’re out to get you. Those are fearful people, imo, dangerously fearful.

  9. avatar
    Ton

    this is already disinformation hehehehe

  10. avatar
    Cissy

    that’s right. Media propaganda is the problem

  11. avatar
    Kreg

    seems like a post-truth environment sometimes

  12. avatar
    Penny

    Yes but it’s the media & gov’s who are spreading lies.

  13. avatar
    Shaggy

    Yes, and it has gone so far that world leaders think its ok to lie to get the public to walk in the desired direction. Media is even promoting it, without any critical questions. Dissidents are isolated and depraved of their platforms and even jobs, they “cancel” everyone that dont agrees with the manufactured “truth”.1984 is a breeze and poor consteuct compared with what really happened here.

  14. avatar
    Krzysztof

    Yes. Most of the fake news come from mainstream media.

  15. avatar
    Soberman

    Oh yeas truth is absolutely forbidden, truth is ‘misinformation’ only the pro EU narrative is good information.

  16. avatar
    Cutty

    Most disinformation comes from the news and social media, who are distorting , censoring and hiding facts ,so that the people hear their narrative only . They did it with Covid on a massive scale , with the vaccines etc . They will continue to do so as long as the big corporations have the power . Disinformation to them is any factual information that they don’t want you talking to others about . Hence the blocking and censoring and labelling of those who do .Ie anti vaxxers , “ right wing protestors , transphobic , all buzz words created by the media to cause division and rancour

  17. avatar
    Zimmermann

    a oui!! les médias mentent!! et ce depuis l’origine ,la vérité dispersé dans les films et série s ,plutot…

  18. avatar
    Jacqueline

    We leven in een fantasie wereld van.mensen met geld die niets beter te doen hebben als burgers pesten.Het moet maar eens klaar zijn, dus aan sluiten maar.

  19. avatar
    Krzysztof

    No difference. Your superfancy elects will ruin everything around anyways ‍♂️ ‍♂️ ‍♂️

  20. avatar
    Molasar

    Post truth politics since 9/11

    • avatar
      René

      Yes the New world order.

  21. avatar
    Rob

    In my view the disinformation comes from the MSM. Everyone speaks about the government lies. We can’t trust them so searching for the real information is the new normal.

  22. avatar
    Dawid

    Has there ever been a time when we lived in a truth world?

  23. avatar
    Kenny

    Virtually 100% of the comments are filled with people showing the conjecture in the title to be true.

  24. avatar
    Tobias

    Thé EU is a dangerous, profoundly anti democratic organization that actively seeks to shut down free speech

  25. avatar
    Jeremy

    80% of the uk press is owned by 5 multi billionaires who don’t pay tax

  26. avatar
    Laurentiu

    Trist. O dată cu dispariția presei independente nu mai știi în cine să crezi

  27. avatar
    Yvana

    Ministry of Truth or rather Ministry of Lies is speaking

  28. avatar
    Hydra

    pour ne plus être toucher par la désinformation il suffit d’éteindre sa télvision

  29. avatar
    Derwin

    The question can we trust the main media and the government or pages on our favourite social medias ? The answer is no the truth always gets censored or deteled or hidden or people get called conspiracy theorist while they tell the truth while the government and the mainstream media will spread false information and disinformation to the people

  30. avatar
    Tom

    The only important question: Who decides what is disinformation?

  31. avatar
    Jasper

    Not only have we always been subject to disinformation, this disinformation is in many ways the basis for our society. The only n e w thing about this is that now there is „unofficial“ disinformation which while still lying to us, represents the interests of dissident factions among the ruling elite, and in some cases geopolitical rivals.Getting not only the unvarnished truth, but also the r e l e v a n t truth, however, is as hard or easy as it ever was. For the real story we need, not government fact checkers, but working class organizations to disseminate their own information.

    • avatar
      Jasper

      Also, the main disseminators of the „dissenting“ misinformation are still traditional outlets like Newscorp, Daily Mail, that lot. They are who we have to thank for stuff like Donald Trump or Brexit.
      Internet ads are small-fry compared to them; on the other hand, expanding the reach of online censorship is extremely bad news.
      It‘s very easy, for example, to get banned on social media as a normal user now by using essentially the wrong language to talk about political issues. There is basically no due process. This is a massive infringement on Free Speech, and in theory it could be expanded to intentionally ban all kinds of statements.

  32. avatar
    Jim

    A major problem is that the automatic thinking that mainstream media = bad guys and lies, therefore independent media = good guys and truth. Yet not enough are reading critically to think – who is publishing this, who are the sources, has this been reported by any other journalists, what is the outlook of the news source and what are they hoping to gain by providing you with this information? Many are claiming something that is true, not because of the reliability of the source, but because the story appeals to them. Whilst organised religion maybe declining, there are people who still require a powerful orator to tell them exactly ‘the truth’ that they want to hear and have replaced Satan with another abstract villain, ‘the elite’.

  33. avatar
    Ilias

    Who is mostly concerned about ‘disinformation’? That is the question ;)

  34. avatar
    王用林

    It is just Russian propaganda. People need to learn to recognize it when they see it

  35. avatar
    catherine benning

    Are we living in a ‘post-truth’ world?

    When leaders misinform a public on intended policy, in order to fix the outcome of a public vote, it is done as they are already fully aware the result intended in plans they have to rule is far from their realistic agenda. They fully recognise, in a Democracy, they will not be elected should the truth of their intentions be revealed. It goes completely against the public majority of ideal government.

    Truth has been questionable for many ions but not as completely against nature and the comfort zone of humanity, the way it is today. Did any of this ‘new world’ political policy leak into the revelation of Western ideology during the run up to election across the Western world today?.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewVTkvAOaTY&ab_channel=GBNews

    A step to truth by exposure?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91qeiLX9amA&ab_channel=GBNews

    The penis observation we all voted for and other sane needs to rule a people by democratic honesty in political main truth movement..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5Kp6Jyb9qs&ab_channel=GBNews

  36. avatar
    Pierrepoint

    The EU is a profoundly dangerous, anti-democratic organization that seeks to shut down all free speech

  37. avatar
    EU-Reform Proactive

    A ‘post-truth’ world? We & the EU are part of a multi-polar world today with ‘some’ history!

    https://iep.utm.edu/truth/#:~:text=The%20most%20important%20theories%20of,Theory%2C%20and%20the%20Pragmatic%20Theory.

    No! That in itself is an untruthful question! Because no one can honestly say & believe that there was ever a human past without political & functional lying. Beware- it is just a continuation of the past, but differently dished up.

    Pragmatists would say “the ultimate test of a theory is whether it can be put to practical use. Can it?

    Rather read Socrates’s philosophy than experiment with (EU) politics.

    https://commoncog.com/blog/four-theories-of-truth/.

  38. avatar
    Jevgeni

    We are living in the world of censorship when governments does not trust citizents thinking that people are too stupid to understand where is the truth, censorship of social media who act based on their own created rules (and braking those rules based on political or other agenda). More censorship creates more conspiracy and even more sources which are used by bad actors.News outlets must get back to its roots and do real journalism to provide all views, not only translating government message.

    • avatar
      Daniël

      Amen

    • avatar
      Meg

      “censorship” is: a system in which an authority limits the ideas that people are allowed to express and prevents books, films, works of art, documents, or other kinds of communication from being seen or made available to the public, because they include or support certain ideas. What social media is NOW trying to do is to limit PROPAGANDA, Lies and conspiracy theories that lead to the coup and near hoisting out of America’s top politicians and lawmakers just because they were not of the same political party as the alt-right racist dip-heads, who believed the “false cheated election” lies. The only “censoring” that is going on in reality is in the Republican lead states trying to limit education so they can push their own warped agenda.

    • avatar
      Crimmscher Gartenfreund

      What is the difference between >>ideas that people are allowed to express<>lies<< that you don not want them to be able to express? How do you prove that a lie really is a lie?

    • avatar
      Jevgeni

      that is the point. But people should be able to decide what to believe to if there is enough of information sources. Not ttat we would learn about our own opinion from TV.

    • avatar
      Meg

      no clue what “government message” you are referring to, the only politicians trying to push their false agenda is the GOP and the orange moron and his alt-right violent fan club.

    • avatar
      Jevgeni

      I don’t care much about GOP and mr T. 🤷‍♂️ In Europe we have enough of own BS to deal with

  39. avatar
    Andrea

    No we are living in the world of “MY TRUTH”Were men can be women, women can be men, But “woman” mean nothing and everything at the same time.Where abortion is a Women’s issue, but even men can get pregnant..Were riots are both “fiery but peaceful protest” and “insurrections” depending on who’s doing it…okay.Sorry to spoil it for you guys but only exist, THE TRUTH and your opinion. Your opinion can be more or less informed, more or less closer to the OBJECTIVE REALITY.nobody can hold the latter but you can get closer to it.

  40. avatar
    Julia

    I think we are living in a world of censorship to influence citizens’ thinking in order to manipulate or control them into consenting to trash and agendas. This only works when the majority are trusting blind believers. It most certainly does not work on critical thinkers with a free mind who know their rights. One day, the tables will turn. For now, the Clever ones are winning, barely.

  41. avatar
    Terri

    A great comment. I agree 100%. Sadly it seems people are unable to think for themselves and are so easy to manipulate into believing lies or misinformation that comes from our governments. That’s censorship. Populations are easier to control is we do as we’re told.

    • avatar
      Meg

      I know half of America cannot think for themselves, as they voted for a lying, cheating womanizer pretending to be a Christian. Religion was only invented to “control the masses” and it looks like in America that is working quite well.

    • avatar
      Josgar

      it not only america anymore, its spreads across the world as a infectious desease!! (Here its the same in Europa!!🙄)

    • avatar
      Seth

      not close to half the US voted for Biden.

    • avatar
      Jean

      90% of people are unable to discern feelings from thinking.
      What government would educate their population in such a way that they are able to overthrow them?

  42. avatar
    Tom

    We think USA is #1 world terrorist.

  43. avatar
    Michael

    disinformation is real.. in the news!

  44. avatar
    Krzysztof

    Największymi kłamcami są rządy, media głównego nurtu i tacy jak wy weryfikatorzy informacji. Tfu

  45. avatar
    Claude

    No, we are living in a world of inconvenient truth. The dominant people have lost their power of manipulation.

    • avatar
      Simon

      That depends where you are and what media you are influenced by

    • avatar
      Claude

      No

  46. avatar
    Meg

    “Has become”? Social media outlets COULD have done the responsible, honorable thing in the first place by policing these lying, propaganda spreading, conspiracy mongers from the very start instead of waiting until the bass-tards nearly overthrew the American government.

  47. avatar
    Mike

    The only disinformation comes from the EU. nothing else is true

    • avatar
      Josgar

      no, America is known for it! (Read youre history!!) EU is now a few years pro-atlantic, and sinds then it is as bad as America (because it wants to be a coop with them!!)

  48. avatar
    Krzysztof

    We are living in a post-post-truth world :)

  49. avatar
    Tadeusz

    if you really want to tackle false information problem then take to accountability all european governments, EU institutions, massmedia like bbc, cnn, fox news and many more…

    • avatar
      Simon

      Why limit it to the EU? This is a global problem.

  50. avatar
    Jon

    Governments have used propaganda for thousands of years, it’s just through the Internet, some of us have been able to sift through the lies, but alas, the majority love the drivel they are fed, each and every day!!

  51. avatar
    Michał

    “With the growth of social media, >disinformation< has become a growing source of concern" - how did you reach the conclusion the social media are the source of disinformation, not the mainstream media? You obviously are a victim of disinformation...

  52. avatar
    Simon

    The question is poorly framed. Disinformation is disinformation irrespective of the medium that conveys it. The biggest culprits for spreading disinformation are the mainstream media outlets in all forms of media. Mainstream media is owned and controlled by a very small number of hyper-rich individuals, pushing specific messages that conform to a particular narrative, and censoring, discrediting or ridiculing anything doesn’t doesn’t conform.

    • avatar
      Tim

      I don’t see them spreading rubbish about chemtrails and other comparable BS, though. 😂

    • avatar
      Tim

      What, innocent cloud seeding with innocent silver iodide? Besides that’s not what is meant by “chemtrails,” it isn’t done by commercial airliners. That an article about it says “plane” does not at all say “commercial airliners” Freight planes, fighter jets, watering planes, stunt planes, spy planes and what not are also planes. I couldn’t tell you what kind of plane they use for it with certainty, but my bet is that it’s done with a small, specialized plane. And in other cases it is done by firing a silver iodide shell into a cloud. Nothing scary or toxic about it; silver iodide is only toxic when you’re talking about extreme exposure, which is simply not the case with cloud seeding. Incidentally; it’s done to create rain during extreme drought or to create snow for ski slopes.

    • avatar
      Kenny

      Tim is 100% correct though, and you’re just making empty claims and then running away. Autism has nothing to do with this.

    • avatar
      Penny

      this is one of the best interviews by Mattias D – it explains a lot: https://kunstler.com/…/kunstlercast-359-a-conversation…/

    • avatar
      Simon

      You’re right – an excellent interview. Thanks for the link.

    • avatar
      Penny

      you’re welcome 🙂

    • avatar
      Tobias

      the BBC is disgustingly biased and that is not down to the “hyper rich” owners

    • avatar
      Simon

      I agree, the BBC used to be world-renowned for its impartial reporting, but that has changed completely. It couldn’t have anything to do with the millions that Bill Gates is handing them, could it? https://thegrayzone.com/…/bill-gates-million-media…/

    • avatar
      Jasper

      sure it is. It‘s a state network and therefore represents the combined interests of British capital.

    • avatar
      Tobias

      that doesn’t mean anything

    • avatar
      Jasper

      sure it does. The state is just a committee of rich people to decide how their fiefdom should be run and state TV is their mouthpiece.

    • avatar
      Tobias

      the bbc is independent of the government. What are you talking about?

    • avatar
      Tim

      Oh, he said something about that? Didn’t even get to read that; the weakling apparently blocked me. Tell me, did he say I got it through vaccination? 🤣🤣

    • avatar
      Tim

      Hilarious. I indeed am autistic, ngl; I’m pretty open about that. But yeah, sticking to the facts has quite little to do with autism; plenty of autists out there who’re far from realistic and lack any form of logic. 😂😂

  53. avatar
    Fred

    In a world were government information is made leading other opinions are degradated as misinformation and conspiracies.

  54. avatar
    Gregor

    I think we just know too much nowadays, n that politicians dont know how to turn off the “knowledge tap”, so they prefer callin’ it “disinformation” (as if it were untrue)

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