Over 70% claim to have been exposed to online disinformation

Survey finds Maltese among those most likely to have witnessed online misinformation as well as intimidation political intimidation

The Maltese say they are among the most likely to have witnessed online misinformation as well as political intimidation, according to a survey by Eurobarometer carried out in November 2020, but published in the past days.

The survey shows that three in four in Malta have “personally witnessed” or have been exposed to political disinformation online – the third-highest in Europe. The same survey shows that 51% of respondents in all EU member states have had the same experience.

This proportion is the highest among respondents in Estonia (86%), Czechia (77%) and Malta (74%). The high percentage of respondents fearing misinformation in Baltic and Eastern European countries reflects long standing concerns with Russian interference.

This majority is smaller in the Netherlands (49%), Poland and Bulgaria (both 49%). Conversely, a minority of respondents hold this view in five Member States: in Austria (31%), Italy (33%), Portugal (39%), Germany (40%) and Romania (47%).

Europeans who position themselves on the left of the political spectrum are the most likely to believe to have experienced disinformation online (57%), compared with those on the right (48%) or in the centre (49%).

In most member states, only a minority of Internet-using respondents think that they have been exposed online to intimidation of politicians through threats or hateful messages, with the lowest proportions in Portugal (15%), the Netherlands (16%), Italy (17%) and Finland (17%).

This minority is larger in Sweden (46%), Malta (39%), Czechia and Romania (both 38%). However, a majority of respondents consider that they have been exposed to such intimidation in only two countries, namely Estonia (57%) and Slovakia (52%).

The survey also shows that the Maltese are among the least likely in Europe to fear that elections can be influenced by criminal groups or foreign actors. The greatest fear of this happening is found in Czechia (79%), Lithuania (76%) and Romania (74%). The least to fear to fear interference by foreign actors and criminal groups are the Austrians (41%), the Germans (43%) and the Maltese (45%).

The survey also showed that 53% of the Maltese have been exposed to content where you could not easily determine whether it was a political advertisement or not. This is far higher than the 37% of all respondents in the EU 27.

The survey also shows that a 63% of Maltese would be more likely to vote if in view of the Coronavirus pandemic, they are given the option of voting on-line or by post, in view of the health concerns related to the Coronavirus pandemic. But 69% of Maltese respondents would be concerned on the risk of fraud and cyber-attacks if this were the case, 63% of all EU respondents shared this concern.

Respondents who witnessed online misinformation

Estonia 86%
Czechia 77%
Malta 74%
Latvia 72%
Lithuania 71%
EU 27 51%

Respondents who witnessed online political intimidation

Estonia 57%
Slovakia 52%
Sweden 46%
Malta 39%
Romania 38%
EU 27 24%