The results of the second annual study of the media literacy index are clear. They rank European countries against their susceptibility to an up-to-date phenomenon – fake news.

Published by the Open Society Institute in Sofia, the study analyzed 35 countries from Europe and ranked them on the basis of categories such as education, media freedom and public confidence.

In the ranking, Bulgaria occupied the modest 30th place. The country is trailed only by Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Turkey and Macedonia.

In general, the countries of the Balkan Peninsula, as well as Hungary, Malta and Italy, are among the most susceptible to fake news in Europe. Researchers explain that the most potential to withstand the effects of the counterfeit news have the countries of the Northwest Europe. This is due to the high quality of education, the availability of free media and high mutual trust among people (as well as in the media) in these countries. The study shows that Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands are leaders in the ranking.

In the study, the most weight has the Media Freedom Indicator (by Freedom House and “Reporters Without Borders”) as well as the Education Indicator (by PISA). This is the reason why the Balkans countries are ranking so low in the report – because of the existence of many controlled media. For the authors of the study, the solution to the problem lies in improving the sector of education.

There is also a comment in the report why fake news is spreading faster and reaching more people than standard news. Analysts say that the fake news “travels” more quickly because they cause surprise and disgust, and the real news is associated with sadness and trust.

The category of fake news covers false rumours or information orally distributed through news or social media, aiming of misleading the audience, while their authors are receiving financial or political benefits.

Although the phenomenon has ancient roots and disinformation campaigns could be sourced in the history of the Roman Empire, it has become particularly widespread recently because of the easy way of spreading information in the digital environment. Easy access to advertising revenue, the increase in political tensions and the popularity of social media, especially Facebook, are among the factors for the waves of fake news.