Social media poses ‘existential threat’ to traditional, trustworthy news: UNESCO |

Over the past 5 years, both news audiences and advertising revenue have moved to internet platforms in large numbers, with only two companies – Google and Meta (formerly known as Facebook) – accounting for half of total spending. Global digital advertising.

Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization of the United Nations (UNESCO) analyzed media growth trends from 2016 to 2021 and found that global newspaper advertising revenue has halved over a five-year period.

Social media festival, news famine

The report points out that news outlets often struggle to get clicks from the readers that determine ad revenue, and many find themselves “squeezed” by the proliferation of new voices in the space. online and algorithms of digital intermediaries.

“The digital ecosystem has unleashed massive amounts of competing content and turned major internet companies into the new gatekeepers,” the study explains.

Furthermore, with social media users nearly doubling from 2.3 billion in 2016 to 4.2 billion in 2021, there has been more access to more content and more voices. – but not necessarily the particular added value of journalistic contentresearch said.

Share of global ad spend by medium over time.

Source: UNESCO

Share of global ad spend by medium over time.

Pandemic caused by covid-19

The COVID-19 The pandemic has only made the trend worse by exacerbating the drop in ad revenue, job losses and newsroom closures, the report found.

During a pandemic, journalism is a frontline service that saves lives. However, disinformation related to COVID-19 spread rapidly on social media, while job cuts in journalism have created a ‘significant void’ in the context of the pandemic. information, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

“In September 2020, more than a million posts circulated on Twitter with inaccurate, unreliable or misleading information related to the pandemic, according to the COVID-19 Epidemic Observatory, a morning opinion of Fondazione Bruno Kessler”, UNESCO detailed.

Meanwhile, a survey of 1,400 journalists found that at least two-thirds of them now feel less secure at work due to the economic pressures of the pandemic.

Journalists rest after a busy day at the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

UN News / Laura Quiñones

Journalists rest after a busy day at the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

Journalists are still under attack

Aside from the economic and disinformation/disinformation obstacles journalists face, over the past five years they have also continued to be targeted around the world.

Between 2016 and the end of 2021, UNESCO documented the killing of 455 journalists who were targeted for their work or while on the job. Most of nine out of ten murders maintain unsolvedshed light on the common punishment for these crimes around the world.

According to the report, there are increasing threats to the safety of journalists not only from governments and criminal groups but also from private lobbies and from some members of the public, who People increasingly feel encouraged to spread slander and attacks online.

In fact, the rise in online violence against journalists is another new and growing trend, and one that disproportionately affects female journalists worldwide.

One year 2021 UNESCO Paper found that more than seven out of ten female journalists surveyed had experienced online violence and one in five reported being victims of offline violence related to online threats.

Journalists cover a terrorist attack in Kenya.

© UNESCO / Enos Teche

Journalists cover a terrorist attack in Kenya.

Terrifying prisons

At the same time, attacks on journalists covering protests, demonstrations and riots are “disturbingly common” while jailing of journalists has reached a record high. .

In many countries, the law does not protect journalists from these threats, and in some, they actually increase the risk of catching them.

According to the report, since 2016, 44 countries have passed or revised new laws that contain vague language or threaten disproportionate penalties for actions such as spreading so-called fake news, disinformation alleged rumors or “cyber smears,” leading to self-censorship.

Meanwhile, in 160 countries, defamation is still a criminal offence. When defamation law is criminal, not civil, it can be used as a basis for arrest or detention, effectively confusing journalists, UNESCO warned.

The report cites data from the Committee to Protect Journalists showing that 293 journalists were jailed in 2021, the highest annual total in three decades.

News that is freely accessible on social media has led to a major obstacle to newspaper sales.

Unplash / Bank Phrom

News that is freely accessible on social media has led to a major obstacle to newspaper sales.


Given these worrying trends, UNESCO calls on governments to take policy-driven action in three key areas to keep independent media and journalists safe.

  1. Supporting the economic viability of independent news media while respecting the professional autonomy of journalists. For example, governments can provide tax benefits to independent news outlets fairly and transparently, and without compromising editorial independence.
  1. Development of media and information literacyto teach all citizens the difference between reliable, verified and unverified information, and to encourage the public to obtain information from independent media.
  1. Enact or reform media laws to support the production of freely available and pluralistic news that is consistent with international standards for Freedom of Expression, in particular Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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