SecurityBrief New Zealand - Technology news for CISOs & cybersecurity decision-makers
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New Zealanders' concern over online misinformation growing
Thu, 22nd Feb 2024

There is rising concern among New Zealanders over misleading information online, reveals a recent study. Findings demonstrate a significant increase in the number of internet users worried about mis and disinformation. As per the research, 65% of surveyed New Zealanders expressed extreme or considerable concern about potentially deceptive information, a jump from 59% last year.

Vivien Maidaborn, the Chief Executive of InternetNZ, agrees with the growing concern. "Internet users in Aotearoa deserve information that is accurate and not intended to mislead. This is a systemic issue, and there are multiple issues that the government needs to act on. The longer they leave it, the more New Zealanders will be harmed as a result," said Maidaborn.

The survey also revealed that women (68%) and people aged over 70 (73%) were the most worried about misinformation. In terms of ethnicity, the study found substantial unease among Maori and Pasifika populations, reaching 60% and 65%, respectively. However, the age group registering the least concern was between 18-29, though they still indicated a rate of 58%.

Maidaborn noted that misleading information was expanding beyond the health sector. She said, "Since COVID, the key perpetrators of disinformation...have worked to generalise their disinformation message from health to many other areas including the environment, parliamentary processes and democracy, race and racism."

The Internet Insights research explored a variety of topics such as internet usage, concerns, online safety, and Artificial Intelligence. A highlight was that an increasing number of New Zealanders, 27%, spend upwards of five hours a day on the internet for personal use. Worryingly, it found that too many people are experiencing online harm or harassment, with around one in five respondents reporting such experiences.

The study also uncovered changing social media habits. While a large number of New Zealanders (48%) use social media frequently, their daily use of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter saw a decrease compared to previous years.

Interestingly, the impact of the internet on cultural beliefs and values was equally split. About 37% of the population find it to be positive, but 28% believe it negatively affects their cultural values. A significant decline was also observed in people believing that the internet's positives outweigh its negatives. In 2019, 84% of the people maintained this assertion, whereas in 2022, it had dropped to 80%.

In areas of emerging technology, the study highlighted that 42% of people surveyed who knew a little about artificial intelligence were more concerned than excited about it.