Pandemic boost for social media ... and fake news

Social media and instant messengers are the most influential in regular communication online.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The “eligible” population, age 13 and above, registered and active on these platforms is just above 65 per cent of the world population.
  • The pandemic seems to have been beneficial to the sector.
  • More than half of those interviewed said they used social media for information.

That the billions of people forced to stay at home by Covid-19 protocols are resigned to their screens crumbling under information is as contradictory as it is uncertain.

The “Digital 2020 July Global Statshot” report shows that social media and instant messengers like Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Messenger are the most influential in regular communication online. The report by the social media management platform Hootsuite shows 3.96 billion, 51 per cent of the global population, are using the internet. That’s a first.

The “eligible” population, age 13 and above, registered and active on these platforms is just above 65 per cent of the world population. The pandemic seems to have been beneficial to the sector, which has seen strong progress, generally in the 10 per cent increase in users over the past 12 months, or 12 new users per second.

Anxiety-inducing atmosphere

Very good numbers, of course, but in a global pandemic with an anxiety-inducing atmosphere, such growth is also fertile ground for disinformation, rumours, fake news and influence struggles. Social media and instant messengers are proliferating with miracle cures, unnecessary self-medication, insane infographics and decontextualised videos at rates not seen before.

More than half of those interviewed said they used social media for information, twice as many as those who claimed to read newspapers.

More curiously, 78 per cent of respondents say they do not trust social networks as a source of information while only 16 per cent of them say they are ready to pay for access to information online.

And although half of those polled confess concerns about the spread of false information on these platforms, Facebook remains the number one source of information, ahead of YouTube and WhatsApp.


Mr Odundo writes on African and global technology, business and politics and has anchored primetime news in Kenya. [email protected]