Results from an online survey indicate that “fake news” reports had the potential to influence voters’ decisions in the Nov. 24 local elections last year, especially among young women with low incomes, a National Taiwan University academic said.
The survey, conducted by Wang Tai-Li (王泰俐), a professor at the Graduate Institute of Journalism, asked respondents to assess the authenticity of six false news reports widely circulated last year, Wang said yesterday.
The reports included one falsely claiming that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was unwilling to leave an armored vehicle in Chiayi to inspect damage caused by flooding in August; a report that the government was planning to lease Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) to the US armed forces; and one that said the Chinese embassy had sent tour buses to Osaka’s Kansai International Airport to evacuate Chinese and Taiwanese passengers following Typhoon Jebi, Wang said.
About half of the respondents were unable to tell whether the reports were true, she said.
Supporters of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) tended to be better at identifying false reports, but independent voters and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters did not perform as well, she said.
Among female respondents, 49.15 percent were unable to identify the reports as false, compared with 28.5 percent of men, Wang cited the survey as showing.
The ability to identify false reports differed with age, Wang said.
Among voters aged 20 to 30, 43.5 percent were able to identify them, while it was 59.6 percent among 50-to-59-year-olds and 55 percent for those aged 60 or over, she said.
One reason younger voters might be more susceptible to false news could be that they spend more time on social media, where it most often circulates, Wang said.
The first version of a story that people read tends to leave the strongest impression, she said, adding that they will ignore clarifications that follow.
Educational background does not appear to be an indicator of a person’s susceptibility to false reports, she said.
Among respondents with a monthly income between NT$50,000 and NT$100,000, 61 percent were able to identify false reports, while it was 37 percent among those with a monthly income under NT$10,000, Wang said.
Respondents in Taichung, and Changhua and Nantou counties were least able to identify false news, followed by those in Taoyuan, and Hsinchu and Miaoli counties, she added.
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