Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Facebook Is Regular Source of News For Many

Even as social media companies struggle to combat misleading information on their platforms, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that about half of American adults (53%) get news on social media sites “often” or “sometimes.” Among the 11 social media sites asked about as regular sources of news in this study, Facebook sits at the top, with about a third (36%) of Americans getting news there regularly. Following Facebook is the video-sharing site YouTube, with 23% of U.S. adults getting news from the platform regularly. Meanwhile, Twitter is a regular news source for 15% of U.S. adults.

The survey, conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 7, 2020, among 9,220 U.S. adults who are part of the Center’s American Trends Panel, also found that a majority of the Americans who are getting news on social media continue to question the accuracy of what they see there. About six-in-ten (59%) of those Americans who get news on social media at least “rarely” say they expect the news they get there to be largely inaccurate, with similar shares saying this since 2018.

Among the report’s other key findings:

• Some social media platforms are less likely to be used as a regular news source. About one-in-ten Americans or fewer report regularly getting news on Instagram (11%), Reddit (6%), Snapchat (4%), LinkedIn (4%), TikTok (3%), WhatsApp (3%), Tumblr (1%) and Twitch (1%). These lower percentages for news use are at least partly related to the fact that fewer Americans report using these platforms in general.

• If we consider news users as a portion of a site’s overall user base, some social media platforms stand out as being more “newsy” even if their total audience is relatively small. Twitter, for example, while used by 25% of U.S. adults, sees over half of those users (59%) getting news on the site regularly. And while only 15% of U.S. adults say they use Reddit, 42% of the platform’s users get news regularly on the site. YouTube, while more widely used (74% of U.S. adults use the site), has a smaller portion of its users regularly turning to the site for news (32%).

• A minority of Americans who use social media for news (29%) say the news they get there has helped them better understand current events. In fact, half of social media news consumers (47%) say that the news they see on social media has not made much of a difference, and 23% say it has actually made them more confused about current events.

• The demographics of regular social media news consumers vary dramatically from site to site. White Americans make up the majority of U.S. adults who regularly get news from Facebook (60%) and Reddit (59%) but fewer than half of Instagram’s regular news users. Black and Hispanic adults make up about a quarter of Instagram’s regular news users (22% and 27%, respectively). People who regularly get news on Facebook are more likely to be women than men (63% vs. 35%), while two-thirds of Reddit’s regular news users are men.

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