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Singaporeans often duped despite thinking they can spot fake news, survey finds

Singaporeans are confident they can spot fake news stories but the reality is far different, a survey has found.

Shown 10 stories from digital channels by research firm Ipsos – five of which were made up – 43% correctly identified only two or fewer of the fake news headlines, with nine out of 10 thinking at least one of the false stories was true.

The results contrasted sharply with their pre-survey confidence in distinguishing between real and fake news. Almost 80% said they were somewhat or very confident of detecting erroneous information.

Despite the self-belief, 45% confessed that had previously been taken in by stories which later turned out to be lies.

The survey quizzed 750 Singaporeans.

The island state took a significant step towards anti-fake news legislation last week when the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods made 22 recommendations to Parliament on how to tackle the spread of misinformation.

Opponents of legislation believe it will further muzzle free speech and strangle legitimate debate.

Ipsos Singapore associate research director Robert McPhedran said the results supported government concerns about the spread of fake news.

“Despite their high levels of confidence, all Singaporeans, irrespective of educational attainment and media consumption habits, find it difficult to discern between real and fake news,” he said. “Given the proliferation of digital media in Singapore and the dire consequences of fake news globally, this is indeed a serious social issue.”

The survey found that 60% specifically use Facebook to access news, with 53% using social media more widely and 52% turning to newspaper websites. In addition, 44% said they consumed news that was shared via WhatsApp in the month proceeding the survey.

In results that will concern mainstream media, only six out of 10 said they had a “fair amount of trust” in traditional news outlets, falling to just 23% who have a “great deal” of trust.

Trust levels differed by demographic, with older Singaporeans believing traditional sources more. Men, meanwhile, are more likely to trust digital channels, the survey found.

There was also varying levels of trust for stories shared on social media. Nearly 60% said articles shared by traditional news outlets were ‘more trusting’, falling to 50% for Government.

Sponsored posts were trusted the least.

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