About the project

The project "From Uninformed to Disinformed Citizens? - Comparing Western Information Environments" aims to assess the extent of online disinformation (“fake news”) in Western Europe compared to the U.S.: Our team will analyze the problem in six countries (Switzerland, Belgium, France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S.). Although scholarship on disinformation has increased substantially since 2016 (especially in the U.S.), there is a lack of work comparing these findings with the situation in other Western democracies. 

We aim to find out which actors spread false information, how disinformation is consumed and perceived, and which societal groups are most susceptible to being affected by it. Recent studies exploring the phenomenon of online disinformation have focused primarily on the individual level; however, the literature also emphasizes the importance of macro-level factors (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017; Graves, Nyhan, & Reifler, 2016; Vargo et al., 2017). The main goal of this project is therefore to understand which contextual and individual factors foster the dissemination and consumption of online disinformation and with which effects. At the same time, we are interested in the factors enabling the resilience of countries facing the problem of online disinformation.

The project starts with a representative survey in order to explore usage and exposure to online disinformation. In a second step, we conduct experiments with users most susceptible to disinformation to find out why participants read, share, and believe false information. Finally, we analyze which actors spread disinformation and how this kind of political information is communicated to users. We will be able to provide empirical evidence on the spread and effects of online disinformation within different national contexts. Moreover, our results will inform policy makers and media professionals dealing with the question of how to combat the increasing disinformation on social media.


Partners / Funding