UNESCO sets out strategy to tackle misinformation after Ipsos survey

The survey found that 87% of citizens express the belief that online disinformation has already made a significant impact on their country’s political landscape, and they worry that it will sway the outcomes of their upcoming elections.


In a recent survey carried out by Ipsos and commissioned by UNESCO, it was found that 85% of people are apprehensive about the repercussions of online disinformation or misinformation.

The survey encompassed approximately 8,000 participants across 16 countries of various development levels and geographic locations who will hold elections in 2024. These countries were explicitly selected due to their upcoming elections. The survey was executed online, drawing from representative samples of internet users aged 18 and older in each nation. Each country had an approximate sample size of 500 respondents.

Additionally, the findings indicate that more than half (56%) of internet users frequently rely on social media to stay informed about current events, surpassing television (44%). Moreover, a substantial majority (68%) of internet users identify social media as the primary breeding ground for disinformation, ahead of online messaging apps (38%) and media websites/apps (20%).

It’s important to note that this apprehension about misinformation isn’t confined to political matters alone. Another Ipsos poll revealed that many individuals are also anxious about the potential of AI to disseminate misinformation on the internet, with 53% of respondents believing that AI will harm the spread of misinformation (US survey example here).

In response to these concerns, UNESCO has introduced an action plan aimed at regulating social media platforms, which have become significant sources of disinformation and hate speech in the online sphere. This action plan is reinforced by the global opinion survey, emphasizing the pressing necessity for decisive measures.

Why does it matter?

After the UN General Assembly voiced its fears about the widespread dissemination of disinformation in December 2021, Secretary-General António Guterres released his Countering Disinformation report. This report has set out the UN guidelines and proposals for states and Big Tech to follow to counter the adverse effects of misinformation. In addition, the Ipsos survey underscores the widespread unease surrounding online misinformation, particularly in the context of political events and the role of social media platforms. Misinformation negatively impacts political discourse and has the potential to negatively influence election outcomes. This can undermine democratic processes and the public’s trust in them. These concerns are prompting calls for regulatory actions to tackle this issue.