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More Americans getting news from social media despite trust issues, poll says

James Leggate

More Americans are getting news from social media, but they have strong concerns about the role social media companies play in delivering that news, according to a poll from Pew Research Center.

More than half of U.S. adults — 54 percent — said they sometimes or often get news from social media, which is up from 44 percent in 2016 and 47 percent for the past two years, Pew reported. Pew surveyed more than 5,100 American adults who are members of its trends panel.

But while more people are getting news from social media, 62 percent said social media companies have too much control over the news people see, and 55 percent said the companies’ efforts result in a worse mix of news for users, according to the report.

Pew found 82 percent of U.S. adults said social media companies treat some news organizations differently than others, with more than three in four saying that the companies favor news organizations that produce attention-grabbing articles, have a lot of social media followers and whose coverage “has a certain political stance.”

Fewer people said they believe social media companies favor news organizations that are well-established, have high reporting standards or whose coverage is politically neutral, according to the poll.

Facebook is by far the most popular social media news source. Some 71 percent of Americans said they use the site, and 52 percent said they get news from on. YouTube was the next most possible social media site for news, with 28 percent of U.S. adults saying they get news there.

Twitter was next with 17 percent of American adults saying they get news there, following by Facebook-owned Instagram with 14 percent. Less than 10 percent of U.S. adults said they get news from social media platforms like LinkedIn, Reddit, Snapchat or others.

Facebook also had the largest portion of users who get news on the site, followed by Twitter and Reddit. Facebook has been working on ways to present accurate news to users since discovering its platform was used for misinformation campaigns. A news section is scheduled to launch on the site next month, and a tool called “Today In” has been focusing on an increasing number of areas that don’t have much local news coverage.

But still, most Americans believe one-sided and inaccurate news on social media are problems, according to Pew’s poll. More than half described them as “very big” problems and 30 percent called them “moderately big” problems.

More than a third said they believed censorship of the news and uncivil discussions about the news were “very big” problems on social media, and fewer people expressed concern about harassment of journalists, news organizations or personalities being banned or seeing violent or disturbing images and videos.

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