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Chart: The Fake News Problem

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The Fake News Problem in One Chart

Chart: The Fake News Problem

Peer opinion fills a void left by falling trust in mass media

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

There’s been no shortage of blame passed around for the so-called “fake news” epidemic that has been front and center since the U.S. election.

Social media has been singled out as one key factor leading to the spread of misleading or false news. However, low barriers to entry for creating content, hyperpartisanism, confirmation bias, and the echo-chamber effect have also been identified as causes or symptoms in the proliferation of such stories.

It’s certainly a complex problem to unravel, and many proposed solutions are just as alarming as the symptoms they try to treat. The decentralization and fragmentation of information is the core of what makes the internet great, and this democratization helps to decouple power away from the established institutions that may or may not have our interests at heart.

How do we regulate news for its authority and legitimacy without stifling alternate viewpoints, differing narratives, and independent sources of information?

Root Causes

In today’s landscape, people are turning away from traditional media and gravitating towards digital content. In this new digital media paradigm, who is considered a trustworthy and convenient source of information?

As long as they could remain reputable, the mainstream outlets that garnered eyeballs throughout broadcasting history should have been the obvious benefactors of this transition. Groups like CNN and Fox News, or The New York Times and The Washington Post, could have remained unquestioned authorities on the issues.

However, it seems like this opportunity has been recently squandered to some extent. These outlets have been slow to adopt their business strategies to the digital landscape, and they remain in damage control mode as advertising revenues drop and profitability wanes. Publishers have been under immense pressure to generate views, and have taken shortcuts in content creation to do this. Hyperpartisan viewpoints that confirm existing biases (aka, the Huffington Post or Breitbart models) and sensational clickbait headlines have been one easy way to build traffic. Some publishers also have an itchy trigger finger, and it seems that getting a story out first has become more important than verifying its validity.

These above factors have, ironically, led to mass media as being a direct part of the “fake news” problem. The retracted stories on Russian propaganda by the Washington Post have been a lightning rod for scrutiny, and entire posts are dedicated to keeping misleading stories from established media at bay. Having a track record with zero blemishes is obviously a difficult target to hit, but the reality is that we are seeing misleading news from everywhere now: “fake news” outlets, mainstream outlets, and the White House itself.

Falling Trust in Media and Institutions

Even before “fake news” hit the mainstream, a poll by Gallup showed that Americans’ trust in mass media was hitting an all-time low. In September 2016, only 32% of people said they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media, which is a decline of -8% from the previous year.

A report from Edelman from January 2017 is even more damning. Trust of the media declined -5% from 2016, which is faster than trust is declining in government (-1%), business (-1%), and NGOs (-2%).

As we mentioned earlier, the rise of fake news is complex and very difficult to untangle. However, the fact is that established news outlets aren’t doing themselves any favors. If people feel like they can’t trust the Washington Post or other such sources, then it should be no surprise that they are turning to the power of “word of mouth” from their peers more often – no matter how fallible this might be.

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Energy

Mapped: The World’s Nuclear Reactor Landscape

Which countries are turning to nuclear energy, and which are turning away? Mapping and breaking down the world’s nuclear reactor landscape.

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The World’s Changing Nuclear Reactor Landscape

View a more detailed version of the above map by clicking here

Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the most severe nuclear accident since Chernobyl, many nations reiterated their intent to wean off the energy source.

However, this sentiment is anything but universal—in many other regions of the world, nuclear power is still ramping up, and it’s expected to be a key energy source for decades to come.

Using data from the Power Reactor Information System, maintained by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the map above gives a comprehensive look at where nuclear reactors are subsiding, and where future capacity will reside.

Increasing Global Nuclear Use

Despite a dip in total capacity and active reactors last year, nuclear power still generated around 10% of the world’s electricity in 2019.

Global Nuclear Reactors and Electrical Capacity

Part of the increased capacity came as Japan restarted some plants and European countries looked to replace aging reactors. But most of the growth is driven by new reactors coming online in Asia and the Middle East.

China is soon to have more than 50 nuclear reactors, while India is set to become a top-ten producer once construction on new reactors is complete.

Asia's Growing Nuclear Footprint

Decreasing Use in Western Europe and North America

The slight downtrend from 450 operating reactors in 2018 to 443 in 2019 was the result of continued shutdowns in Europe and North America. Home to the majority of the world’s reactors, the two continents also have the oldest reactors, with many being retired.

At the same time, European countries are leading the charge in reducing dependency on the energy source. Germany has pledged to close all nuclear plants by 2022, and Italy has already become the first country to completely shut down their plants.

Despite leading in shutdowns, Europe still emerges as the most nuclear-reliant region for a majority of electricity production and consumption.

world-nuclear-landscape-supplemental-3

In addition, some countries are starting to reassess nuclear energy as a means of fighting climate change. Reactors don’t produce greenhouse gases during operation, and are more efficient (and safer) than wind and solar per unit of electricity.

Facing steep emission reduction requirements, a variety of countries are looking to expand nuclear capacity or to begin planning for their first reactors.

A New Generation of Nuclear Reactors?

For those parties interested in the benefits of nuclear power, past accidents have also led towards a push for innovation in the field. That includes studies of miniature nuclear reactors that are easier to manage, as well as full-size reactors with robust redundancy measures that won’t physically melt down.

Additionally, some reactors are being designed with the intention of utilizing accumulated nuclear waste—a byproduct of nuclear energy and weapon production that often had to be stored indefinitely—as a fuel source.

With some regions aiming to reduce reliance on nuclear power, and others starting to embrace it, the landscape is certain to change.

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Politics

How Much Do Countries Spend on Healthcare Compared to the Military?

Every year, governments spend trillions on healthcare and defense. But how much is spent per person, and how does this compare by country?

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Healthcare vs. Military Spending, by Country

Keeping citizens both healthy and secure are key priorities for many national governments around the world—but ultimately, decisions must be made on how tax dollars are spent to accomplish these objectives, and funding must fall into one bucket or another.

This infographic from PixlParade examines how much 46 different countries put towards healthcare and military spending in 2018, per capita.

Head to Head: Healthcare versus Military

Data for government and compulsory healthcare spending comes from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Note that these figures do not include spending through private insurance or out-of-pocket expenses.

Meanwhile, the data for military spending comes from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

CountryHealth spending (Per capita, 2018 US$)Military spending (Per capita, 2018 US$)
U.S.$9,008.77$2,086.50
Norway$5,361.00$1,323.90
Germany$5,262.83$559.50
Switzerland$4,687.26$546.00
Sweden$4,623.68$574.90
Netherlands$4,461.30$651.50
Denmark$4,441.07$792.50
Luxembourg$4,385.66$650.80
France$4,310.55$791.00
Austria$4,137.25$381.00
Belgium$3,868.82$421.60
Japan$3,787.74$366.50
Canada$3,719.86$613.10
Ireland$3,629.43$229.80
UK$3,336.55$743.10
Finland$3,331.65$680.30
Australia$3,311.33$1,078.00
NZ$3,188.39$532.30
Czhechia$2,632.67$254.10
Italy$2,574.96$458.70
Malta$2,448.73$152.20
Spain$2,414.69$381.70
Slovenia$2,227.77$254.80
Portugal$1,906.23$431.00
South Korea$1,848.76$841.70
Israel$1,828.40$2,357.50
Estonia$1,744.57$458.60
Lithuania$1,599.15$377.10
Croatia$1,553.67$232.50
Poland$1,511.18$317.50
Hungary$1,493.01$184.60
Romania$1,344.34$223.50
Greece$1,331.19$547.10
Chile$1,282.59$296.10
Latvia$1,111.67$375.20
Cyprus$1,103.03$374.30
Bulgaria$1,042.85$136.30
Turkey$946.83$238.60
Russia$873.00$421.20
Colombia$864.16$204.10
Mexico$582.05$46.30
Brazil$388.98$134.50
South Africa$267.85$63.50
China$249.83$177.60
Indonesia$55.62$28.20
India$18.80$49.00
Source: OECDSource: SIPRI

Note: There are minor discrepancies in comparing table data to original sources due to recent estimate updates. Figures for Brazil, South Africa, China, Indonesia, and India come from the World Bank (2017).

The Top 10 Healthcare Spenders

The U.S. leads the world in government healthcare spending at $9,008 per capita – over 1.5 times that of Norway, the next-highest country examined.

CountryPer capita health spending% of GDP% of health spending
U.S.$9,008.7714.3%84.7%
Norway$5,361.008.6%85.3%
Germany$5,262.839.7%84.6%
Switzerland$4,687.267.6%64.4%
Sweden$4,623.689.3%85.1%
Netherlands$4,461.308.2%82.1%
Denmark$4,441.078.5%83.9%
Luxembourg$4,385.664.4%84.1%
France$4,310.559.4%83.6%
Austria$4,137.257.7%74.7%

While per-capita government spending on healthcare in the U.S. is the highest in the world, this has not necessarily brought about better outcomes (such as longer life expectancy) compared to other developed nations.

It’s also worth mentioning that the above figures do not cover all healthcare costs incurred by citizens, as they do not account for private insurance spending or out-of-pocket expenses. According to OECD data, these additional costs tend to be the highest in places like Switzerland and the United States.

The Top 10 Military Spenders

Israel has the highest rate of military spending per capita, and has the distinction of being the only country on this list to invest more in defense than in healthcare.

CountryPer capita military spending% of GDPTotal expenditure, US$M
Israel$2,357.505.3%$19,759M
U.S.$2,086.50 3.3%$682,491M
Norway$1,323.90 1.6%$7,067M
Australia$1,078.00 1.9%$26,840M
South Korea$841.70 2.5%$43,070M
Denmark$792.50 1.3%$4,559M
France$791.00 1.3%$51,410M
UK$743.101.8%$49,892M
Finland$680.30 1.4%$3,757M
Netherlands$651.501.2%$11,115M

Although the United States comes in second place here as well, in absolute terms, the U.S. puts more money into military expenditures than many other countries combined, at almost $700 billion per year.

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