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News on social media is chaotic, Pew study shows

The Pew Research Center and the Knight Foundation just released two lengthy reports on the American experience message and politics on social media. There are a number of noteworthy statistics in the study, but to me it mostly highlights that news distribution is a bit confusing.

This isn’t to say that news has disappeared from X, TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram, but the way most users encounter news content varies by platform. People say most of the content they see comes not from journalists and media organizations, but from influencers on other, unrelated accounts.

Perhaps not surprisingly, researchers found that most people don’t use social media to follow the news. A small number of TikTok (41%), Instagram (33%) and Facebook (37%) users said that “getting news” was their “primary or secondary” reason for using the platform. As the Pew Research Center points out, X is a notable exception, with 65% citing news coverage as the reason they use the service.

This may not be particularly surprising, given Twitter’s longstanding reputation as a news source and Meta’s more recent reputation. transfer leave from the media industry. While most people on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok say they don’t seek out news, most say they see news Some News-related content on the platform.

But when you drill down into the types of news participants said they saw, the top categories were opinions on current events and “interesting posts.” Take a look at the breakdown below: On every platform, opinion and interesting posts are more common than news articles or “information about breaking news events.” (Again, the only exception is X, where people say they see articles about the same frequency as “interesting posts” about news.)

Most of the news-related content people see is opinion and interesting posts.

pew research center

It’s also alarming to consider the sources of news-related posts reported by study participants. On every platform except X, the top source of news and news-related content is not a journalist or media organization. On Facebook and Instagram, it’s friends and family, and on TikTok, it’s “other people.” X’s “other people” category is also quite high, with 75% saying they see news from these accounts. This suggests that much of the news content people see on X and TikTok is driven by the recommendation algorithms of these platforms.

News sources look very different on each platform.

pew research center

While Pew typically repeats similar studies periodically, allowing readers to extrapolate trends over time, this study is new, so unfortunately we don’t have historical data to compare all of these statistics. But they do broadly reflect what many in the media industry have experienced over the past few years. Publishers are getting significantly less traffic from social media, and news is increasingly filtered through influencers, meme creators and accounts displayed by random algorithms. It’s also worth noting that for each platform, a majority said they see inaccurate news at least “sometimes.” For X, which accounts for the largest proportion of news consumers and people who see news content, 86% of participants said the news they saw “seems inaccurate.”

The report’s authors don’t draw conclusions about the overall significance of it all, not to mention the growing anxiety in an election year about the spread of misinformation fueled by artificial intelligence. But reports show that finding reliable and accurate news on social media is far from easy.

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