Kiwis have openly admitted classing information they disagree with as fake news in a new survey released by Netsafe.
The online safety organisation found at least 50 per cent of Kiwis have experienced fake news, nearly half of whom are concerned about mistakenly spreading it.
The research is part of a new education campaign launched today to teach people how to spot fake news and how to deal with it effectively.
Martin Cocker, Netsafe's chief executive, says participants of the 1000-strong survey openly disregarded information they didn't agree with as misinformation or fake news.
"There have certainly been plenty of events where news media have been accused of being inaccurate of their coverage, not always fairly," he said.
"That starts to mean that even legitimate articles by legitimate media are going to fall into what people consider to be a fake news bucket."
It is important for people to be able to clearly differentiate what is and what isn't misinformation, Cocker said.
Netsafe hopes the campaign will help the public be more aware of misinformation and fake news and how to deal with it.
It comes after the man behind a malicious rumour online about the origins of Covid-19's return to New Zealand admits he is awaiting a visit from police.
He had claimed that a member of the family at the centre of the new cluster had supposedly entered a managed isolation facility.
The man, who works in international development and aid, says he is incredibly remorseful and ruing the three minutes it took to compose and post the harmful rumour.
Fourteen per cent of people in the Netsafe survey, which ran between March 13 and March 22, 2020, mentioned seeing misleading stories about Covid-19.
Eight in 10 recall seeing fake news on social media, 52 per cent on New Zealand online news sites, 40 per cent in newspapers, and one in three on national television.
Cocker says industries need to do more to intercept fake news, especially if it is spreading on their platform.
The best thing people can do is report what they believe to be misinformation or fake news on the platforms they see them on.
Elections and other major events, like the Covid-19 response, are easy targets because it's a topic everyone is interested in finding out more about, Cocker says.
"The reality is we are, as a country, seeking out information about Covid and about the lockdown and things like that," he said.
"If you put out misinformation that is related to that, it's more likely to be picked up and boosted and spread given the public interest in the topic."
"[Fake news and misinformation] is a tremendously serious problem, with serious consequences."
Netsafe has created a website where people can find out more information about fake news and misinformation: https://yournewsbulletin.co.nz.
The survey ran between March 13 and March 23, 2020. A national representative sample of 1000 people aged over 18 participated.
Colmar Brunton conducted the survey to gather Kiwis perceptions and knowledge on fake news and misinformation.
Netsafe's tips on how to spot fake news
• Understand the context: Information is presented to you everywhere. Check where the original story appeared and who is promoting it. Find out if the source is credible before sharing it.
• Check the facts: Fake news often contains incorrect details, unreliable sources or altered timelines. You can often research and cross-reference key facts with a simple web search.
• Understand the subtlety: Sometimes real information can be distorted to become fake news. Be especially wary of image or video descriptions that might be misrepresenting what is happening in them.
• Compare other sources: Every news source has its limitations. When news is important, it's hard to contain. If you can only find it in one place, you should be cautious. Check the differences between similar reports to understand the facts before sharing it.
• Know your biases: We quickly and subconsciously accept news that aligns with our beliefs and negatively react to information that is different. It's important to take time and reflect on how news is making you feel before reacting or sharing.
• Stop the spread: You can minimise the spread of misinformation by reporting fake accounts, or pages and domains repeatedly sharing misinformation using the Help Centre on the social media platform you are using.
• Use trusted sources: Netsafe is advising people wanting the most accurate health information about COVID-19 to rely on the Ministry of Health or covid19.govt.nz websites. Other helpful resources are available at netsafe.org.nz