Fake news is, on average, shared 927 times on social media in Serbia, the Executive Vice President of the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), Aleksandar Dardeli, told Voice of America.
Dardeli said that IREX, which is an international, nonprofit organization which specializes in global education and development, found that a total of 43 fake news stories were shared via the media and social media from March 12 to April 12 in the country.
Some of the shared fake news usually referred to topics such as China’s efficient response to the coronavirus crisis and conspiracy theories, such as that NATO is responsible for the virus, he said.
“Such content was shared online and by traditional media a total of 241 times. It had 220 thousand shares on Facebook,” Dardeli said.
He also explained that it is difficult to get data which could indicate what group is most susceptible to disinformation and the damage it causes but that, generally, this could be defined as two major groups of people.
“One of them is, for example, a group nostalgic for Yugoslavia and its historic connections with the Slavic world. That group is particularly the most susceptible to disinformation which comes from the outside, especially from the Kremlin which seeks to implement geopolitical divisions and eventually turn Serbia towards Russia and the East, and not towards the West, the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance,” he said.
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The other group, which is probably bigger, comprises of people who use fear and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and it is not particular to any age.
He cited an IREX study which said that 97 per cent of Serbia’s population watches TV at least two hours a day while 60 per cent uses Facebook and 44 per cent Youtube.
“According to the majority of respondents, the Pink Television broadcasts fake news the most,” he warned.
The issue cannot be resolved quickly or easily, Dardeli said, adding that to tackle misinformation, Serbia’s civil society, media professionals, government institutions and the private sector must all be involved.
“Unfortunately, Serbia is lagging in media freedom and the work of media professionals. The Reporters Without Borders report states that it is often dangerous to be a journalist in Serbia, while fake news that is being promoted at light speed is becoming increasingly visible. It’s no wonder that, in the last report, Serbia slipped by three positions, ranking to 93rd,” he said, adding that “now is the time for action.”
This post is also available in: Italiano