The genuine article? One in three internet users fail to question misinformation

Ofcom publishes its annual research into children’s and adults’ media use and online lives.

More than a third of internet users are unaware that online content might be false or biased, according to new Ofcom research. 

It reveals that 30% of UK adults who go online (14.5 million) are unsure about, or don’t even consider, the truthfulness of online information. A further 6% – around one in every twenty internet users – believe everything they see online. 

Misinformation can spread quickly on social media platforms. More than four in ten adults say they have seen a story on social media that looked deliberately untrue or misleading in the last year.

Although seven in 10 adults (69%) said they were confident in identifying misinformation, only two in 10 (22%) were able to correctly identify the tell-tale signs of a genuine post, without making mistakes. We saw a similar pattern among older children aged 12-17 (74% confident but only 11% able).

Online experiences uncut

Today’s reports reveal an unfiltered picture of our lives online today. Other themes emerging in this year’s research include:

  • Multiscreening TikTots – TikTok is growing in popularity, even among the youngest age groups. The popularity of short-form content could also be linked to multi-screening, with more children reporting difficulties in focusing on a single online activity.
  • Concealing life online– Many children could be tactically using other accounts or ‘finstas’ – fake Instagrams – to conceal aspects of their online lives from parents.
  • Scrolling over sharing – both adults (88%) and children (91%) are becoming more passive online; and are three times as likely to watch videos online, than to post their own content.
  • Social Samaritans– Young digital natives, who have never known life without the internet, are sharing their technical skills and supporting others. They’re also increasingly using the internet as a means of supporting their own wellbeing.

Visit Ofcom’s news centre to find out more detail.

The following reports are also available to view on our website:

Digital exclusion review 2022