Commentary

Study: Americans Say Social Media Control News Too Much

Most Americans say social-media companies have too much control over the news. Many people fret over biased reporting, inaccuracies, censorship and uncivil discussions, according to a survey by Pew Research Center.

Some 62% of U.S. adults said companies like Facebook and Google's YouTube control too much of what people see, resulting in a worse mix of news, the survey found.

And Americans should be skeptical of what they see on social media, especially since the platforms thrive on divisive topics, inflammatory remarks and outright bigotry that drive "engagement."

Instead of gathering people around a digital campfire to share experiences that enrich the soul and inspire faith in humanity, social media offer an endless parade of trolls, quacks, solipsists and demagogues -- or I'm just friends with the wrong people on Facebook.

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Online audiences are noticing that social-media companies tend to favor sensationalism over substance. About four out of five Americans said social networks treat some news organizations differently than others. Most of those people said social media favor news outlets that produce attention-grabbing articles or have a certain political stance.

Only 18% of Americans said social media favor news organizations whose coverage is politically neutral. I'd love to know the names of those media outlets, if they even exist.

Republicans tend to be more distrustful than Democrats of the news they see on social media. Seventy-five percent of Republicans said social media has too much control over news, compared with only 53% of Democrats.

That distrust may be a byproduct of President Donald Trump's criticism of Facebook, although political rivals like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont., have also blasted the social network for having too much power.

More than half (52%) of Americans said they get news from Facebook, making it the most popular social-media platform for information. That's ahead of YouTube (28%), Twitter (17%), Instagram (14%), LinkedIn (8%) and Reddit (8%). Barely anyone gets news from Snapchat, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Twitch or TikTok.

The survey's findings suggest news outlets need to work harder to restore public confidence, because social-media companies can't be trusted to do so.

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