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Most Americans Don’t Know That Facebook Owns Instagram and WhatsApp

Facebook is facing multiple antitrust investigations at federal and state levels, probing issues including whether it has used its ownership of Instagram and WhatsApp to anticompetitive advantage.

But the majority of regular Americans aren’t actually aware that the social giant owns both Instagram and WhatsApp.

That’s according to a new survey by Pew Research Center, which found that only 29% of Americans correctly named Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp as owned by Facebook. Another factoid from the study: Shown a photo of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, only 15% of U.S. adults were able to correctly identify him.

Digital literacy of U.S. adults varies widely depending on the subject and the individuals education, per Pew’s study. On certain topics, Americans overall are relatively knowledgable: For example, 67% of U.S. adults know that phishing scams can occur across multiple platforms, including via email, text messages, social media or websites; and 63% of those surveyed understand that cookies let websites track users’ site visits and activities.

In addition, 59% said they understand that advertising is the largest source of revenue for most social media companies. Meanwhile, 48% of U.S. adults correctly answered that a privacy policy is a contract among websites and users governing how their data will be used, while 45% know that net neutrality refers to the principle that internet service providers should treat all traffic on their networks equally. Only 30% correctly answered that a URL that starts with “https://” means that the information entered on that site is encrypted.

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Other findings from Pew’s study: 24% of Americans know that private browsing only hides browser history from other users of that computer, while about half of adults (49%) say they are unsure what private browsing does.

According to the Pew study, U.S. adults’ knowledge of digital topics varies significantly based on their level of education. Those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree answered a median of six out of 10 questions correctly, compared with four by those who have attended college but have not obtained a degree and three by those with a high school diploma or less.

Americans’ digital knowledge also varies by age, though these gaps “are less pronounced than for education level,” according to Pew. For example, adults 18-29 correctly answered a median of five out of 10 questions, compared with a median of three of 10 among those ages 65 and older.

Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank, conducted the survey of 4,272 adults from June 3-17, 2019. It said the margin of sampling error in the survey is plus or minus 1.9 percentage points.

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