Did You Know?

Public wary of news, information from social media

Did you know? 62% of Americans say social media companies have too much control over the mix of news people see.

A majority of Americans say that social media sites have too much say in the news they consume online.

That’s according to the Pew Research Center, which published its assessment of public opinion in an October 2019 report, Americans Are Wary of the Role Social Media Sites Play in Delivering the News.

The report by the nonpartisan “fact tank” spells out the public’s worries: While 62% believe that social media companies have too much control over the news on their sites, 55% specify that the role of social media companies in delivering the news on their sites results in a worse mix of news for users.

Pew provides additional context for its findings: Yes, the largest platforms use algorithms that tailor what posts people see. But the same sites also allow users to customize their settings. Despite that, many Americans still aren’t sure why certain posts are included in their news feeds — and take little action to change their own settings.

In its survey, Pew asked about seven potential “problems with news.” Although censorship of the news by social media platforms — such as downranking or “hiding” posts with which a platform disagrees (called “shadow-banning”) — has been trumpeted as an issue, only 35% of respondents said they considered it a “very big problem.” The top two concerns were “one-sided news,” which 53% cite as a “very big problem,” followed by “inaccurate news,” cited by 51% as a “very big problem.”

Those concerns are well-placed: As Pew notes, Americans increasingly get their news from social media; more than half (55%) do so “often” or “sometimes” now versus 47% in 2018. About 28% get news on social media “often,” up from 20% in 2018.

Data in this Pew Research Center report are drawn from responses by 5,107 members of Pew’s American Trends Panel who were surveyed between July 8 and July 21, 2019.