Vast majority identifies disinformation as a threat to democracy

German Public Concerned About Deliberate Disinformation Spread Through Internet, Study Finds

Gütersloh/Berlin, 28 February 2024 – A recent study conducted by the Bertelsmann Stiftung has revealed that 84 per cent of the German public is concerned about deliberate disinformation being spread through the internet. The study, titled “Disconcerted Public”, highlights the growing fear of political opinions and elections being influenced through the spread of false information.

According to Daniela Schwarzer, executive board member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, this development presents a challenge for the political class, civil society, and the media. She emphasizes the need for addressing this issue, particularly in light of the current super election year, in order to protect liberal democracy.

The study further reveals that over 90 per cent of respondents believe that the motive behind deliberate disinformation is to influence political opinion in the population. As a result, disinformation is most frequently observed in connection with controversial issues such as immigration, health, war, and the global warming crisis.

The study also draws a comparison with the United States, where the fear and perception of disinformation are more pronounced. According to Kai Unzicker, an expert on social cohesion at the Bertelsmann Stiftung, this is due to the polarization in the US, which has become increasingly evident during the ongoing election campaign.

In light of these findings, the authors suggest the need for better guidelines in Germany. Cathleen Berger, an IT expert at the Bertelsmann Stiftung, recommends that social networks should be obligated to embed fact-checking and confidence assessments. She also suggests making it easier for users to check and report information. Additionally, independent monitoring of digital content by multiple non-state actors is needed.

The “Disconcerted Public” study was conducted as part of the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s project, Upgrade Democracy. A representative online survey was conducted by pollytix strategic research gmbh, polling 5,055 people in Germany and 2,018 in the United States aged 16 and above between 4 and 17 October 2023.

For further information, please contact:

Kai Unzicker, Phone: +49 (0) 52 41 81 81 405

Cathleen Berger, Phone: +49 (0) 30 27 57 88 154

About the Bertelsmann Stiftung:

The Bertelsmann Stiftung is committed to ensuring that everyone can participate in society – whether politically, economically or culturally. Their program focuses on education and the next generation, democracy and cooperation, digitalisation and the common good, Europe’s future, health, and a sustainable social market economy. Founded in 1977 by Reinhard Mohn as a non-profit organization, the Bertelsmann Stiftung aims to use knowledge, train competencies, and devise solutions to empower people to shape the future.

For further information, please visit:

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