Facebook and Twitter are least trusted in social media for political news

January 29, 2020, 8:44 PM UTC

Facebook and Twitter are a long way from instilling confidence after letting misinformation flood their services during recent elections, according to a new survey. Most Americans still don’t trust social media as a source of political news.

Fifty-nine percent of adults distrust Facebook, the worst showing among major social media sites, according to the Pew Research Center. Twitter was second worst with 48% followed by Instagram at 42%. 

The report gives “a fuller picture that reinforces what we’ve seen in the past about the general trust level or lack thereof in social media as a news provider,” said Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at Pew. Social media is ” by far the lowest when it comes to trust levels.”

The findings come as social media companies struggle to control misinformation, spam, and propaganda on their sites. They’ve also been scrutinized for allowing Russians to disseminate political propaganda during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Additionally, the social media has taken a scattershot approach to policing political ads that include false information. Facebook, most notably, has taken the controversial position that politicians can lie all they want in ads.

Both Republicans and Democrats have criticized tech companies, claiming that their policies and enforcement are unfair to their candidates and parties. And the Pew report reinforces that the distrust in social media services crosses party lines.

For example, 62% of Republican or Republican-leaning respondents distrusted Facebook for political news versus 59% of those who lean Democratic. When it comes to Twitter, 51% of Republicans said they distrusted those service versus 46% of Democrats.

The Pew report also showed that the people who mostly use social media for political news are less likely to be concerned about misinformation and fake news. Out of that group, 37% of respondents were very concerned about the integrity of the news they accessed through social media. Whereas half of the people who get their news from other sources—like TV, print, or news websites—are very concerned about the influence of misinformation on social media.

The good news is most people don’t rely on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter as their primary source of political news. Only 18% of adults say social media is their primary source, with the vast majority going to major news outlets for information, Pew found.

Pew’s report was based on a survey of 12,000 U.S. adults between Oct. 29 and Nov. 11, 2019. In addition to Facebook, Facebook-owned Instagram, and Twitter, the survey covered YouTube, LinkedIn, and Reddit. 

Of all the services, YouTube scored highest with only 17% of people saying they distrusted the political news posted on it. Meanwhile, adults felt they neither trusted or distrusted news on LinkedIn. Most respondents had either never heard of Reddit and therefore didn’t have an opinion.

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