Social media delivering the news

Social media delivering the news

Pew Research Center reveals interesting insights regarding social media and how people receive the news.

Do social media companies have too much control over the news? A new Pew Research Center reports shows that many Americans seem to think so, saying that the role social media companies play in delivering the news on their sites results in a worse mix of news for users.

In a time where social media has become an inevitable part of the news diet of the U.S. population, Pew Research revealed that about nine-in-ten (88%) Americans recognize that social media companies have at least some control over the mix of news people see. And most Americans feel this is a problem: About six-in-ten (62%) say social media companies have too much control over the mix of news that people see on their sites, roughly four times as many as say that they don’t have enough control (15%). Just 21% say that social media companies have the right amount of control over the news people see.

However, despite that people see many concerns in getting the news from social media, this practice is an increasingly common experience, with over half of U.S. adults get news from social media often or sometimes (55%), up from 47% in 2018. About three-in-ten Americans now get news on social media often (28%), up from 20% in 2018, turning Facebook, the Mark Zuckerberg behemoth, into the social media site where Americans use most commonly for news by far, followed by YouTube (28% of adults get news there), then Twitter (17%), and Instagram (14%). LinkedIn, Twitch, Reddit, Whatsapp and Snapchat have smaller news audiences.

How is controlling happening?

Pew Research Center reports that all major social media platforms has a control over their feeds by using computer algorithms that prioritize content tailored to the interests of each user, however, these platforms allow users to customize these settings, making many Americans feel uncertain about why certain posts appear in their news feed on Facebook specifically, despite companies also being public about their efforts to fight both false information and fake accounts on their sites with policies, banning or limiting others that produce lower-quality content, or monetizing publications.

Despite big companies like Facebook keep saying that changes are being made to make the news experience on their sites better for everyone, a majority (55%) of those surveyed by Pew Research say that the role social media companies play in delivering the news on their sites results in a worse mix of news. Only a small share (15%) say it results in a better mix of news, while about three-in-ten (28%) think their efforts make no real difference, because many are also not understanding them.

Another Pew Research Center survey found that notable shares of Facebook users ages 18 and older lack a clear understanding of how the site’s news feed operates, feel ordinary users have little control over what appears there, and have not actively tried to influence the content the feed delivers to them.

What is concerning people?

Of the seven issues asked about by Pew, about half of U.S. adults say that one-sided news (53%) and inaccurate news (51%) are very big problems when it comes to news on social media. Fewer say that censorship of the news (35%) or news organizations or personalities being banned (24%) are very big problems.

About a third of U.S. adults (35%) say that uncivil discussions about the news are a very big problem when it comes to news on social media. Additionally, about a quarter (27%) say that the harassment of journalists is a very big problem associated with news on social media.

Many Americans also say that the news posts they see on social media tend to lean to the left ideologically. Nearly half of social media news consumers (48%) describe the posts about news they see there as liberal or very liberal. A much smaller share – 14% – say the news posts they see are conservative or very conservative, while 36% say the news they see is moderate.

These findings are based on a survey conducted July 8-21, 2019, among 5,107 U.S. adults who are members of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel.

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