As election season nears, much attention has been focused upon social media platforms and the role they play in how people worldwide consume news and information – and upon what responsibility those platforms have, if any, to fact-check the information posted and shared by their users.
Last month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress, along with the CEOs of Apple, Amazon and Google, about what his company has done to stifle the spread of misinformation on its platforms.
Facebook has more than 2 billion users worldwide and has had a number of publicized failures to prevent the spread of false information. Though Zuckerberg told a Congressional panel that his company has dramatically increased its efforts to remove false content, several committee members blasted the platform’s failure to act quickly and resolutely to eliminate such information.
In this month’s Richmond Power Poll, we wanted to know how Power Poll members use social media, how much news they consume through it and what role they believe its operators should play in ensuring the dissemination of accurate information.
Here’s what we found:
• The majority of respondents – about 64% – said they use social media about equally for personal and business reasons. About 18% said they used it primarily for in their personal lives, while the same percentage said they did so primarily for business.
• All but one of the members who responded to this month’s survey said they used Facebook, and nearly three-quarters (71%) ranked it as their most-used social media platform, making it the most popular top choice among respondents.
• Overall, 96% of respondents reported using Facebook, 82% Twitter, 75% Instagram and 71% LinkedIn. Only a handful mentioned other platforms, including Snapchat, Tik Tok, Reddit and Pinterest.
• The majority of respondents – about 68% – said they get some news from social media but most from other sources, while 18% said they don’t get any news from social media. Only 14% said they get the majority of their news from social media, while none said they get all their news there.
• Nearly three-quarters of all respondents (about 71%) said they believed that social media companies should do more to elevate legitimate news sources and eliminate illegitimate ones from their platforms; about 11% said those companies already are doing enough to differentiate between the two, while 18% said they didn’t think social media companies had any responsibility to do so.
Richmond Power Poll is not a scientific survey; this month’s survey had a participation rate of 13%.
In a February 2020 worldwide poll, Statista found that slightly less than half of Americans rely on social media as a source of news, placing it on the lower end of the spectrum (Kenya topped the poll at 77%, followed by South Africa and Chile (73% apiece), then Bulgaria, Greece and Argentine (71% apiece). A Pew Research Center poll found the U.S. numbers to be higher, concluding that about 62% of adults get news from social media.