Image credits: Christoph Scholz
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News Article

Mexico Ranks Second in Fake News Generation

By Alessa Flores | Fri, 04/24/2020 - 11:42

Misleading news have always existed. However, since the emergence of the internet and new communication technologies, fake news have become increasingly frequent, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The problem is that fake news are increasingly impacting society, to a point where these can not only shape public opinion but change the course of our day-to-day and even our democratic practices, according to the IFJ.

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mexico faces the spread of fake news. According to an analysis by Luis Ángel Hurtado, Professor and Researcher at UNAM’s School of Political and Social Sciences (FCPyS), fake news seek to manipulate mood, create fear and produce images of collective hysteria. Hurtado explained that false news in Mexico circulate through various media outlets such as social networks and some traditional media, which creates an adverse impact when dealing with a situation.

Facebook, Youtube, Whatsapp, Twitter and Instagram lead the ranking of the communication platforms most used by Mexicans. Mexico has approximately 82.7 million internet users, which constitutes 71 percent of the population, according to the Internet Association's report on the habits of internet users in Mexico in 2019. In addition, there is data that provides a clear dimension of the relationship of Mexicans with the internet and ICTs. According to the same study by the Internet Association, 67 percent of Mexicans spend 24 hours online and on average spend more than eight hours a day connected to social media. 

Moreover, Hurtado’s recent study "Radiography on the spread of fake news in Mexico," which included the application of 1,593 questionnaires to the same number of people between 14 and 95 years of age in the 32 states of the country, revealed alarming conclusions. Facebook is estimated to have more than 82 million users, of which 88 percent (70 million) claim to have at some point received erroneous messages, explained Hurtado in its study. Regarding WhatsApp, Hurtado indicated that 90 percent of respondents said they had received false news about COVID-19, as well as 91 percent of those who use Instagram. In other social networks, 89 percent of those interviewed claimed to have received fake news on Twitter and 83 percent on YouTube.

Hurtado highlighted that the five most used social networks by Mexicans “show a high level of circulation and spread of false information.” In turn, he explained that “if the people who consult them have access to the same news and only focus their attention on those platforms to stay informed, the problem becomes very large and causes acute fear.” In this sense, fake news play an important role in the disinformation of Mexicans today.

The situation is critical for the country. The academic pointed out that his research shows that "the misinformation epidemic reaches important figures in our country and renders us (Mexico) the second-largest generator of fake news after Turkey."

Finally, the academic stressed that it is key that in times of crisis such as pandemics, precautions are taken regarding the use of social networks since otherwise the consequences could be exacerbated. "If we do not take due precaution, social networks could be a vehicle for the people behind the apocryphal news to generate chaos, uncertainty and panic, which can lead to health and economic crises," Hurtado concluded.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Internet Association, IFJ, UNAM-DGCS-408 Bulletin, UNAM, Luis Ángel Hurtado
Photo by:   Christoph Scholz
Alessa Flores Alessa Flores Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst