Media Literacy Index: Bulgaria is the Least able to Resist Fake News

Society | October 14, 2022, Friday // 13:02|  views


Bulgaria is the country in the European Union that is the most incapable of resisting the negative impact of fake news and is the most vulnerable in the fight against it. This is shown by the Media Literacy Index for 2022, prepared within the framework of the European Policy Initiative (EuPI) of the Open Society Institute - Sofia, and assesses the potential for resilience against fake news in 41 European countries, using indicators of media freedom, education and trust in people.

Bulgaria occupies 33rd place, but is last in the European Union. Before it are Ukraine, Greece, Romania and Serbia. Moldova, Montenegro and Turkey are in the same group, but with a worse result than Bulgaria.

Most resistant to the influence of fake news and disinformation are the Scandinavian countries - Finland (in first place), Norway, Denmark and Estonia. In these countries, the quality of education, media freedom and high trust among people are the reason why societies are able to cope with the influence of fake news.

At the bottom of the ranking is Georgia, preceded by North Macedonia (40th place) and Kosovo (39th) with almost the same result, Bosnia and Herzegovina (38th) and Albania (37th). Bulgaria ranks last among the EU member states, and occupies the 33rd place out of a total of 41 countries.

"It is worrying that the societies most vulnerable to the impact of fake news are at the same time the least concerned about the spread and impact of disinformation," notes Marin Lesenski, author of the report, quoted in the research press release.

When measuring the index, indicators of different importance are calculated. Media freedom indicators are weighted the most (Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders assessments are used) along with education indicators (the PISA survey), with reading literacy having the highest share among education indicators. The indicators of e-participation and trust in people (Eurostat) have less weight compared to the other indicators.

Bulgaria performs the worst in indicators measuring the quality of education, ranking 34th out of 41 countries, lagging behind including countries in the region that are outside the European Union, such as Ukraine, Serbia and Turkey, but obtaining similar results to those of Romania.

"Education is an essential component in countering fake news. For example, the government of Finland, which for another year topped the rankings for media literacy, considers a strong public education system a key tool to counter the information war against the country, and widespread critical thinking skills among the Finnish population and a concerted government response' are considered a key element in countering disinformation. In general, more educated people are believed to be more informed, more critical thinkers and less likely to fall into the trap of fabricated news", the authors of the report also note.

According to indicators measuring media freedom, Bulgaria ranks 32nd, ahead of countries such as Hungary and Serbia, but behind countries outside the European Union such as Moldova, Kosovo and Montenegro. In terms of trust between people, Bulgaria performs slightly better and occupies 29th place with a similar result to that of Portugal and just behind the Czech Republic, including ahead of another EU member - Croatia.

Bulgaria performs best on e-participation indicators, ranking 13th out of 41 countries in Europe, but these indicators carry relatively little weight in determining the final ranking.

How to make countries more resilient

The 2022 edition of the Media Literacy Index comes at a time when the "infodemic" accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic has coincided with the propaganda "info wars" waged against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, multiplying both the misinformation and the resulting threats from it, specified by "Open Society".

According to them, the institute has always advocated action through education as an approach to dealing with misinformation. "However, as recent experience shows, education is a necessary but long way. Regulation, including the introduction of restrictions, may prove to be a necessary and inevitable step. Otherwise, the 'paradox of tolerance' appears when the rules of liberal democracy are used for its undermining", they also write in the report.

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