Fake news. We’ve all heard of it, but how often do people actually encounter this phenomenon in their daily digital lives?

A recent multi-country study conducted by Dalia found the incidence of fake news and other online negativity to be quite high, particularly in the United States.

Americans who use social media report receiving the most threats (11%), offensive messages from strangers (24%), sexual harassment (19%) and seeing false or misleading content (44%). Only 41% haven’t experienced any of the negative events listed in the survey. Due to the political climate and the larger discussion around the intersection of social media, politics and fake news, it’s not too surprising that Americans report the most troubles.


French respondents report the least problems with their social media interactions, and have the lowest levels of sexual harassment (9%) and offensive messages from strangers (12%).

Meanwhile, German respondents are somewhere in the middle when it comes to harassment, but are the least likely of the 4 countries to report seeing fake news (34%) and are the least likely to receive threats (2.8%). This could possibly be due to the effects of the NetzDG law instituted in January 2018. (Stay tuned for our next post, which will cover this topic.)

Unsurprisingly, people who are on social media less frequently are also less likely to have experienced any of the aforementioned list of negative incidents. Among all respondents, 69% of those who use social media a few times per month or less didn’t experience any of the incidents on the list. Meanwhile, 41% of those who use social media at least every week experienced harassment, fake news or offensive language.

Gender Differences

There are also some gender differences within the results to take note of. For example, more women report receiving sexually offensive messages than men in Germany (16% v. 12%) and in the UK (15% v. 9%). However in the US, men and women report receiving such harassment at equal levels (19% each). In France, 8.2% of women and 8.7% of men report receiving sexually offensive messages. Overall, men generally report more threats, harassment, offensive comments and fake news than women.


Differences in social media interactions could have a wide range of causes and contributing factors. For example, due to self-selection bias, the participants in this survey may be more likely to come across inflammatory online content than most. Differences in ideas of what constitutes fake news or offensive language might also lead to country level differences in experiences on social media. In any case, internet negativity remains prevalent in all four countries in the study with roughly half of all social media users having experienced at least something negative.  

Do you have questions you want to ask the world? Dalia Research specializes in conducting market research by leveraging mobile access to quickly gather insights from around the world. If you’re interested in learning more about how we work or in conducting your own research, feel free to get in touch!


About the survey

The results shown in this post are from a survey conducted by Dalia Research in March 2018 on public opinion of social media censorship across internet connected respondents in Germany, France, the US, and the UK. The total sample size is n=2.021 (Germany=505, France=508, UK=500, US=508). The total sample takes into account the current population distributions with regard to age (14-65 years), gender and region/country.

In order to obtain census representative results, the data were weighted based upon Eurostat statistics. The target weighting variables were age, gender, level of education (as defined by ISCED (2011) levels 0-2, 3-4, and 5-8), and degree of urbanization (rural and urban). An iterative algorithm was used to identify the optimal combination of weighting variables based on sample composition within each country. An estimation of the overall design effect based on the distribution of weights was calculated at 1 at the global level. Calculated for a sample of this size and considering the design-effect, the margin of error would be +/- 4.4% at a confidence level of 95%.


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