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May 23, 2019, 10 a.m.
Audience & Social

News outlets post way more pictures of men than women to Facebook

Also, men’s faces actually take up more space in the pictures.

Just like in newsrooms, men are overrepresented in the images U.S. news organizations use in news stories posted to Facebook, a new study from Pew Research Center found. Men comprised more than half of the faces in photos accompanying links from news outlets, with as many as two-thirds of the faces pictured.

Pew used machine vision to assess this:

Researchers analyzed images from 17 U.S. national news outlets — ABC News, BuzzFeed News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, HuffPost, NBC News, The New York Times, Newsweek, NPR, Time, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, The Washington Post, Yahoo News, Vice, and Vox — that were included in links posted to Facebook between April 1 and June 30, 2018:

There are several ways to measure how often men and women appear in news photos. One way is to think about all the photos together as making up one big crowd of people and estimating what share are women versus men. Of the 53,067 individuals identified in news post images on Facebook, women made up 33 percent, while men made up the other 67 percent.

Another way to look at the data is to examine the mix of people who appear in each image. Across the 22,342 Facebook posts with news photos containing identifiable human faces, more than half of them (53 percent) exclusively showed men, while less than a quarter showed exclusively women (22 percent). All 17 national news outlets included in the study showed more men than women in news images on Facebook during the study period. The share of individuals who were identified as women by the model ranges from 25 percent to 46 percent.

And this will come as no surprise to anyone who’s sat next to a manspreader: “Men’s faces took up more space in Facebook news images, with the average male face being 10 percent larger than the average female face across all photos with people.”

Sometimes there are just more men to write about in a given situation — only a quarter of the U.S. Congress is female — but female athletes only receive four percent of the attention male athletes do, for example. By story type, Pew found:

  1. Economy-related posts exclusively showed women nine percent of the time, compared to 69 percent for men;
  2. Entertainment-related posts exclusively showed women 27 percent of women, compared to 42 percent for men.

(After this post was published, Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne emailed this statement: “The study results most likely reflect the gender gap in business, politics, sports and other areas that the media covers. Ultimately, news editors choose which images to include and which stories they post to Facebook.”)

The full study is available here.

Image from Jovi Waqa used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     May 23, 2019, 10 a.m.
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