Malta has the highest rate in the EU of people getting their news from social media platforms, a new study published by the European Commission has found.
A Eurobarometer survey published on Friday found that 70% of Maltese receive their news through social media. Malta is tied with Cyprus on the metric, far above the EU average of 37%.
Online news platforms and television are the second-most prevalent mediums among the Maltese, both at 49%. Television appears to have a far looser grip in Malta compared to the rest of the EU, which stands at 71%.
The Eurobarometer Survey, conducted during October, found that compared to an earlier study from May 2022, responses from across the EU showed an 11 percentage point increase in social media use as a news source.
Among the different platforms studied, Facebook remained Malta’s preferred platform, claiming an 81% share compared to the EU average of 63%.
Television and other traditional news sources saw decreases in popularity across the EU.
In Malta, printed newspapers received the lowest share of use, with just 11% reporting they had consumed news content from this medium compared to the EU average of 21%.
Surveying the kind of news consumed, the study found that Maltese respondents were most interested in local news. Some 66% of respondents said they had access to this kind of news in the previous seven days, compared to the EU average of 50%.
Maltese respondents reported similar levels of interest in national politics, European and international affairs, and crime news, hovering between 40% and 50%.
The trend toward social media as the preferred news outlet raises questions considering issues tied to the medium.
Most social media platforms include algorithms which promote sensationalist stories, allow for the spreading of misinformation and disinformation, and further widen political divides.
A European Parliament report has even identified social media as a threat to democratic values.
In 2019, a University of Oxford media study found that Malta was one of 70 countries using organised social media manipulation campaigns.
The report found that the communication strategies used in Malta matched the trolling and disinformation tactics typically employed by authoritarian countries. False statistics, the creation and dissemination of narratives which quote selectively from official documents to spin a negative story in the government’s favour, and the targeting of dissidents were found to have been employed.