According to a recent media literacy study, Finland is the European country least susceptible to “fake news,” with the other Nordic countries trailing closely behind.
An expanded version of the analysis, which measures countries’ susceptibility to false news reports, placed the United States and much of Western Europe – including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany – in a lower tier with Latvia and Lithuania.
The Open Society Institute in Sofia, Bulgaria, conducted the study, which looked at a variety of metrics to determine the overall media literacy of European countries and six select countries outside of Europe. The institute, founded in 1990 with a grant from George Soros, calculated scores across four different metrics: press freedom, education, trust, and political participation, with education weighted as the most important.
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Finland, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Sweden, Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Australia were among the top performers. Germany and Iceland ranked highest in the index’s second quartile, while Italy and Israel fell to the third quartile of “transitional” countries in terms of media literacy. The far-right has recently won elections in the latter two countries.
The report discovered that people in countries with liberal democratic governments are “more likely to worry about misinformation than people in countries without or with limited democratic institutions,” and that people with higher education levels are more concerned about fake news.
“It is concerning that the societies most vulnerable to the impact of fake news are also the least concerned about the spread and impact of disinformation,” Marin Lessenski, the report’s author, said in a press release. “This increases the risks associated with disinformation in such countries, particularly in the context of the war in Ukraine, because a portion of the public is unaware of or simply ignores its vulnerability.”
The “dangers of fake news and related phenomena for democracy are difficult to underestimate,” according to the report. Countries with the lowest levels of media literacy have the most restrictions on press freedom, as well as low levels of education and personal trust.