Survey: The Dark Side of News Consumption on Social Media

Illustration of Facebook like buttons holding a newspaper
Cheyne Gateley/VIP+

Note: This article is based on Variety Intelligence Platform’s special report “Demographic Divide,” available solely to subscribers.

Social media has long been in the news for its potential subversive influence over news and politics. Company executives frequently appear in front of House committees investigating the extent of the power of social, with a majority of the public concerned about the power Big Tech wields

The Jan. 6 hearings have seen social media thrust back in the spotlight given the medium’s role in both organizing events and allowing for misinformation to spread unchecked that led to that day’s tragic events

Executives from the likes of Meta and Twitter have long resisted calls for their platforms to be regulated by the FCC, much as traditional news networks are. Results from VIP+’s partnership with GetWizer on the “Demographic Divide” report suggest that, especially among younger consumers, social media has a strong level of influence for news and thus may be deserving of more formal oversight. 

Close to half of those 15-29 report that social media accounts are one of the ways they get their news (for a full list of news sources, refer to the report). This falls to two out of five 30-44s, one in four 45-59s and one in ten of those 60 or older.  

Interestingly, there is an inverse relationship between getting news from social media accounts and thinking that social media helps rumors to spread. Younger demos are the least likely to agree that this is the case, whereas more than half of those 60+ think misinformation is easier to spread in the age of social. 

Whilst it is a small proportion overall, it is worth noting that one in five of those between 15 and 29 believe social media news is more accurate than what is shown on TV. This underscores the attitude that the media can’t be trusted and that “truth” only exists when individuals are “brave” enough to speak it and will become a growing issue for events like elections or national emergencies if allowed to continue unchecked. 

A key statistic to note is that around one in seven consumers between 15 and 29 get their news only via social media, a much greater proportion than all other age groups. Fact checking is rare on social, with it an obvious concern that over half of those under 45 get all or some of their news via the medium. 

With services seemingly unwilling to regulate themselves in order to limit the spread of misinformation, expect for demand to increase for news on social media to be regulated like other news platforms. That’s not to say the current situation on TV is much better, with opinion often peddled as fact, but having an unregulated news source of growing importance in younger consumers decision-making is a situation that will change over the next few years. 

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