Social networks are the main source of information in Portugal

Eighty-seven percent of respondents to an Iberinfier observatory study say they access the news via social networks, with 37% encountering misinformation several times a day and 97% having detected misinformation in the last month.

Based on 530 valid questionnaires as part of a study on the impact of disinformation in Portugal carried out in 2022 by the Iber Iberian Observatory for Digital Media (Iberifier), it appears that 77.6 percent of the sample points to ‘poor quality journalism’, namely ‘factual errors’ and ‘simplistic coverage’, as the type of disinformation they identified most often in the last month.

Already 72.1% underlines the problem of ‘partially manipulated facts’, 48.5% highlights ‘headlines that look like news, but are advertising’, 29.7% mentions the ‘use of the term “fake news” (by politicians, for example) to discredit media that they do not like’, 20.9% mentions ‘completely false news with political or commercial objectives’, and 12.9% points out the ‘humorous articles that resemble news (satire)’.

Among those surveyed by Iberifier, 71.3% points to ‘politics’ as the area most targeted by disinformation, while 59.2% highlights ‘war and armed conflicts’ as the subject most often targeted by ‘fake news’ and 50.8% mentions ‘economic issues’ as the most affected.

When asked about the areas in which disinformation most concerns them, 84.0% choose that which originates from the Government, politicians and parties and 79.0% mention that which is disseminated by commentators on social networks, while 75.0% mention that which comes from journalists or the media and 72.0% that which comes from international governments or politicians.

Regarding the platforms of dissemination of false information, 83.8% are concerned about the dissemination made through social networks (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube), 68.6% point out the disseminated on ‘sites’ or ‘apps’ (applications) of ‘social media’, 59.9% are concerned about the disinformation disseminated in search engines (such as Google or Bing) and 53.0% mention the instant messaging applications, such as Whatsapp or Telegram.

The survey also shows that 72.0% of respondents stopped trusting a media outlet after detecting that it disseminated misinformation or fake news, 23.8% say that most of the time the news cannot be trusted, and 77.2% state that they cannot trust most of the information on social networks.

Already 26.9% of respondents consider that most of the time the media are not reliable, 26.8% say the same about journalists and 55.9% say that the news contained in search engines are mostly not reliable.

Regarding the sources they trust most to obtain information or learn more about a subject, 78.7% choose scientists and 56.2% journalists, followed by doctors (39.6%), activists (14.7%) and commentators (11.9%).

As for the media to which they most resort to obtain information, 67.6% of respondents mention SIC Notícias, 61.6% the Público newspaper, 61.3% the RTP1 and 53.1% the Expresso newspaper. This is followed by CNN Portugal (45.8%), RTP 3 (41.4%), SIC (40.8%), Observador (39.1%) and TSF radio (34.0%).

Promoted by the European Commission and associated with the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO), Iberifier is a digital media observatory in Portugal and Spain whose goal is to combat misinformation.

The project is coordinated by the University of Navarra, Spain, but its main partner is ISCTE – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa. In total, it includes 12 universities, five verification organizations and news agencies (including Lusa news agency) and six multidisciplinary research centers.