Roughly two-thirds of American adults “get at least some of their news on social media,” according to Pew Research Center data.
The 5% uptick from 2016 isn’t due to the younger, more tech-savvy generations like millennials (or even Generation Z). News consumption from social media platforms for people ages 18-49 stayed exactly the same with 78% saying that social media are their primary source of news in both 2016 and 2017. But 55% of people 50 years of age and older said they receive some of their news from sites like Facebook and Twitter — a 10% increase in just one year.
Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and other social media platforms, of course, don’t create their own original news stories. They do however serve as pathways to such content. Facebook dominates the rest of the companies in news consumption, as 45% say they get news on the site. YouTube and Twitter are in second and third place, with 18% and 11%, respectively.
Despite the staggering difference, Twitter seems to be gaining ground, as it saw the biggest surge in news usership relative to last year (59% to 74%). Others, like YouTube and Snapchat, are up as well, with an 11% and 12% increase, respectively. In comparison, Facebook’s rate only increased by 2%.
Perhaps Twitter’s upswing is due to it being President Donald Trump’s go-to means of virtual communication.
Social media platforms like Twitter are often used by people to consume as many informational tidbits as possible in a short period of time. Users accompany their 140-character-or-less tweets with a link to a news story, but other users and observers often read just the brief caption and treat it as a sufficient morsel of news. The same could be said for Facebook’s trending news section. Completely false stories also make their way to the platforms.
Facebook and Twitter have been pressured to help decipher and purge news stories that are unsubstantiated, especially since the 2016 presidential election concluded. But automatically identifying a post as legitimate or fraudulent may be a daunting task, since subjectivity seems to be liable to even the most seemingly scientific processes.
Both Facebook and Twitter have been working with congressional investigators, according to multiple reports, on potential Russian interference on the sites. Those investigations, however, seem to center around political ads on divisive issues, not necessarily fake news.
This report, by Eric Lieberman, was cross posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.