What are the Top Threats to the Global Information Environment? IPIE Expert Survey Reveals Social Media Platforms and Politicians as Primary Concerns, Anticipate a Deteriorating Information Environment in 2024
September 5, 2023 – Switzerland – The International Panel on the Information Environment (IPIE), an independent global science organization providing actionable scientific assessments of threats to the world’s information environment, today published Trends in the Global Information Environment: 2023 Expert Survey Results a first-of-its kind report that reveals the concerns of the world’s information environment researchers, along with a corresponding summary for policymakers, Expert Survey on the Global Information Environment 2023: Lessons for Technology Policy and Design.
What are the Top Threats to the Global Information Environment?
To answer this question, the IPIE surveyed 289 scientists over a four-week period in the spring of 2023. Experts were invited to contribute if they had authored an academic article in a peer review journal about the information environment, including topics such as deepfakes, AI generated misinformation, and algorithmic bias.
The survey was offered in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish. All in all, researchers from around the world reported on the trends in 54 countries.
- Fully two thirds (66%) of the experts indicate that the availability of accurate information is the most important feature of a healthy information environment, and half (50%) value the diversity of voices as a vital feature.
- Researchers perceive serious issues with Artificial Intelligence and online content moderation, which they attribute to a lack of accountability when content moderation is badly done (66%) and poorly designed AI-powered content moderation systems (55%).
- Social media platforms and politicians are consistently perceived as the most serious threats to a healthy global information environment. Politicians are flagged by almost a third (31%) of the experts who study democracies, and social media platforms are flagged by a third (33%) of the experts who study both democracies and autocracies.
- Almost three quarters (72%) of the international research community flags the lack of access to platform data as the major barrier to advancing our understanding of the global information environment.
- A majority of researchers (54%) believe the information environment in their countries of expertise will worsen in 2024. A minority (12%) believe it will improve.
Interestingly, experts who study autocracies and democracies have differing opinions about the threats to the information environment. First, experts studying autocracies perceive serious threats from national governments, state-backed media, and local news outlets, while experts studying democracies are concerned about foreign interference. Second, experts studying autocracies are most concerned about misinformation on gender issues, while experts studying democracies are most concerned about misinformation on climate science and the environment.
- “There are a huge number of important elections and referendums on the horizon. The IPIE has found some critical points of consensus about what the world’s data scientists are worried about—and hopeful for,” said IPIE Co-founder and Chair Phil Howard (Canada). “If regulators move quickly and platforms make more accurate information available, more social media users will have what they need to make good decisions on voting day.”
“It’s not too late to build a more resilient information environment,” said Sebastián Valenzuela (Chile), Chair of the IPIE Methodology Panel. “The world’s leading academics, drawn from computer and data science, engineering, the social sciences and humanities, are cynical but not fatalistic.”
“We hope to guide policymakers around the world with a deeper understanding of issues they most need to pay attention to, so that they can make good decisions with evidence at hand, and they can take action based on the best knowledge available today,” said Mona Elswah (Egypt), one of the analysts behind the report.”
Earlier this year, IPIE also released two major reports on how to respond to misinformation: Countermeasures for Mitigating Digital Misinformation: A Systematic Review and Platform Responses to Misinformation: A Meta-Analysis of Data. Both of these reports are discussed in a dedicated Summary for Policymakers: Strategies for Improving the Global Information Environment: Results from a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
All IPIE reports and policymaker summaries are accessible on the organization’s website. www.IPIE.info
To request a policymaker briefing, please contact secretariat@IPIE.info
To request a media briefing or book IPIE spokespersons for interviews or broadcast segments, please contact press@IPIE.info
About the IPIE
The Swiss-based International Panel on the Information Environment (IPIE) is an independent and global science organization committed to providing the most actionable scientific knowledge about threats to the world’s information environment. The mission of the IPIE is to provide policymakers, industry, and civil society with independent scientific assessments on the global information environment by organizing, evaluating, and elevating research, with the broad aim of improving the global information environment. Hundreds of leading scientists from around the world contribute to IPIE’s research and outputs. www.IPIE.info
Media Contact: Sydney Dennen, IPIE, press@IPIE.info.