59% of US Adults Do Not Trust News on Social Media

A study on social media as a news source finds 59% of US adults believe the information shared on social platforms is inaccurate.

Pew Research Center surveyed over 9,000 Americans about their use of social media as it relates to keeping up with current events.

About half of US adults (53%) say they get news from social media either “often” or “sometimes.” Only 21% of respondents say they never get news from social media at all.

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Despite the number of Americans turning to social media for news, there is great distrust around the accuracy of information being shared.

Could that be because of the specific sites people are getting their news from?

The report from Pew Research Center contains data specific to each social media site, including the percentage of Americans that use each site as a source of news.

Results of the survey are broken down by demographic, revealing the age groups and education level of people who regularly turn to social media for news.

Here are several of the report’s major findings.

News on Social Media Inaccurate?

Pew Research Center reports only 39% of those who get their news on social media expect the information to be accurate.

That means over half of US adults who use social media to get news are questioning its accuracy before they read a single article.

It appears what they’re finding isn’t giving them the answers they’re looking for either. Just 30% of respondents say social media helps them understand current events, and 23% even say it leaves them more confused.

Let’s take a closer look at where they’re getting their news from. Perhaps unsurprisingly, you’ll find that Facebook stands out as the most common source among people who get news from social media.

Social Media As a News Source

Could the level of distrust and confusion around news and current events have anything to do with the sources themselves?

Pew Research Center finds these are the percentages of US adults who use each site as a regular source of news:

  • Facebook – 36%
  • YouTube – 23%
  • Twitter – 15%
  • Instagram – 11%
  • Reddit – 6%
  • Snapchat – 4%
  • LinkedIn – 4%
  • TikTok – 3%
  • WhatsApp – 3%
  • Tumblr – 1%
  • Twitch – 1%

It’s worth noting several of these sites are more prominent sources of news than the low numbers may suggest.

Take Reddit for example, which is used as a news source by 6% of Americans. However, among Reddit’s user base, 42% report regularly using the site to get news.

That goes to show Reddit is valued as a source of news by a significant share of its user base. Or, as Pew Research puts it, Reddit is more “newsy” than other sites.

“If we consider news users as a portion of a site’s overall user base, some sites stand out as being more “newsy” even if their total audience is relatively small. Twitter, for example, is used by 25% of U.S. adults, but over half of those users get news on the site regularly.

And 42% of Reddit users get news regularly on the site, though it overall has a very small user base (15% of U.S. adults say they use Reddit).”

Another site that’s more newsy that you might expect is TikTok. Almost a quarter (22%) of TikTok users regularly get news from the site, making it a prominent source even though its base of adult users is relatively small.

For more insights such as these, see the full report here.

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About the Author: Matt Southern

Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt has an uncanny ability to make the most complex subject matter easy to understand. When he’s not ferociously following and covering the search industry, he’s busy writing SEO-friendly copy that converts.