Kaspersky: Southeast Asians gullible to fake news

Published February 5, 2021, 5:30 AM

by Emmie V. Abadilla

Almost two out of ten people in  Southeast Asia (SEA) share news on social media first before verifying if it’s true, according to the latest survey of  global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky.

The survey, which research agency YouGov conducted in the Philippines, Australia, India, Malaysia, , Singapore, and Vietnam covered 1,240 working professionals active on social media (spending at least 1 hour a day on social media) aged 18-65.

With the public locked down due to the pandemic, citizens from the region consumed most of their news through social media. 

Majority, 76% of users in SEA, get their news updates from platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The percentage is higher for Gen Z at 83%, followed by Millennials at 81%, Baby Boomers at 70%, and Gen X at 62%. 

Alarmingly, only 5-in-10 respondents across all generations read the full article before sharing it on their own account.

As online misinformation remains a concern online, the survey revealed that 2-in-10 (18%) respondents admitted to sharing news before verifying if they are true. 

Sharing news before verifying is highest among Gen Z (28%), followed by Gen X (21), and Boomers (19%). Millennials logged the lowest in this aspect at 16%.

Table 1: Percent of social media users in Southeast Asia who said they share news/articles on social media before verifying if it’s true.

Interestingly, boomers lead the pack in confronting friends or family members who share fake news, based on their judgments, at 41%. 

They are followed by Millennials (27%) and Gen X (23%). Gen Z appears to be more polite at 19%.

“Southeast Asia internet users are approximately at 400 million with an additional 40 million people who were first-time internet users in 2020,” says Yeo Siang Tiong, General Manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky.

“The region is also known for being among the most active social media users,” he stressed.

“In fact, our survey showed 36% of users in SEA spend 1-2 hours more on these online platforms post-lockdown, 28% added 2-4 hours, and some 17% with 4-6 hours more being spent on socializing online.” 

Table 2: Percent of social media users in Southeast Asia who would confront friends/family members who share fake news/articles.

However, the low verification rates when it comes to sharing news online could be attributed to the self-presentation theory, where the individual desires to present him/herself in a certain way, explained Beverly Leow, a psychologist at Mind What Matters.

When users are sharing information without giving it any thought, it is quite likely that they are motivated by the prospect of presenting themselves as updated and well-informed netizens.

“Social media presents us many different types of narratives. Sometimes a particular incident or event may have several conflicting narratives or versions, and verifying the truth of the matter or the validity of the information presented may be more time consuming and require more effort than hitting the “share” or “repost button,” Leow elaborated.

“From a cybersecurity perspective, false information is a form of social engineering on a bigger scale being used by cybercriminals to victimize people and organizations,” she underscored.

Last year was plagued with phishing emails, scams, and fake domains piggy backing on COVID-19 and now, even vaccines. 

This is why both individuals and businesses, with the current work-from-home format, should not take misinformation on social media lightly. 

“With this pandemic being far from over, vigilance on information and links that we share is more than necessary,” Yeo warned.

Awareness about misinformation online is, however, showing signs of growth in the region with 6-in-10 respondents across all generations saying that they do check the sources of information or news being circulated on social media before clicking “Share”.

Blocking is another way of users in SEA to protect themselves from misinformation. 

More than a quarter of the respondents admitted blocking contacts who share articles they deem as inaccurate. 

The percentage of silencing online friends is highest with Gen Z at 46%, followed by Boomers, Millennials, and Gen X with 33%, 32%, and 30%, respectively.