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How do audiences decide what news to trust? Fairness and accuracy aren’t the only things that matter
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Jan. 12, 2021, 1:57 p.m.
LINK: www.journalism.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Hanaa' Tameez   |   January 12, 2021

While about half of Americans “sometimes” or “often” get news from social media, they say they remain skeptical about what they’re seeing, according to a new Pew Research Center report on news consumption on social media platforms.

During a year full of misinformation, from vaccines to voter fraud, Pew surveyed 9,220 U.S. adults between August 31 and September 7 about 11 different social media platforms. Of those who get news on social media at least “sometimes,” 59 percent said they expect the information they find there to be inaccurate, a sentiment that remains unchanged from 2019.

(Normally, an annual Pew report on Americans’ news use of social media would include lots of year-over-year comparisons — TikTok’s up, Snapchat’s down, that sort of thing. But Pew recently changed how it asks people about news consumption, in an attempt to better capture the diffuse nature of digital media, and as a result, comparisons to many data points from previous years aren’t reliable. Consider this a snapshot more than a dot on a fever chart; the full comparisons can start next year.)

Does news on social media help people better understand current events? Only 29 percent said yes; 47 percent said it didn’t make a difference, and 23 percent said it actually left them more confused.

The biggest social platforms for news aren’t surprises: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, in that order. But the demographic makeup of each site’s users differ. “White adults make up a majority of the regular news users of Facebook and Reddit but fewer than half of those who turn to Instagram for news,” according to the report. “Both 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.”

On Facebook, 46 percent of its regular news consumers lean Republican versus 50 percent who lean Democratic. The platform with the most one-sided political leanings is Reddit, where 21 percent of its regular news consumers lean Republican against 79 percent who lean Democratic.

Find the full report here.

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