Social media is trusted by less than a quarter of the UK population (24 per cent) with a majority of the public also backing tougher regulation for social networks, a new study has found.
According to Edelman’s UK Trust Barometer Supplement survey, low trust in social media is “driven by a sense of inaction around important issues”.
“Some 70 per cent of Britons believe that social media companies do not do enough to prevent illegal or unethical behaviours on their platforms,” the study said.
“A further 70 per cent agree these companies do not do enough to prevent the sharing of extremist content, and 69 per cent agree they don’t do enough to combat cyberbullying.”
The survey of 3,000 respondents, of which two-thirds were aged 18 and 1,000 were young adults aged 16 to 18, was carried out by research firm Edelman Intelligence between 19 December and 6 January.
More than a third of Britons believe that social media is not good for society, according to the study, with 64 per cent believing that they are not sufficiently regulated and 63 per cent saying that they lack transparency.
The study also found that more than half of British people (53 per cent) worry about being exposed to “fake news” on social media and that 64 per cent cannot tell the difference between proper journalism and fake news.
According to the survey, 42 per cent of Britons say they only skim headlines on social media, but do not click on the content.
Ed Williams, chief executive of Edelman UK, said: “After a flood of negative headlines in 2017, it’s time these companies sat up and listened. The public want action on key issues related to online protection, and to see their concerns addressed through better regulation.
“Failure on their part to act risks further erosion of trust and therefore public support.”
Lowering trust levels in social media have helped bump up public support in traditional media – comprising publishers and broadcasters – the study said, putting it back to levels last seen in 2012.
But, trust in media on the whole is at 32 per cent and a third of the population admit to consuming less news than they used to, with one in five saying they avoid the news completely, the study said.
“Those most likely to be news rejecters are highly educated professionals, over the age of 40, with children, and living in London. They come from across the political spectrum and are evenly split male/female,” it said.
The three most common reasons for rejecting the news were that it is “too depressing” (40 per cent), “too biased” (33 per cent), and “controlled by ‘hidden agendas’” (27 per cent).
The study found for the first time that the proportion of the UK population who describe themselves as “informed” – those people who read business and political news “several times a week or more” – has dropped to 6 per cent. It has never before fallen lower than 11 per cent.
Ed Williams said: “We are clearly seeing significant changes in people’s news consumption habits. The breadth of information available on the internet is not resulting in the same depth we once saw.
“As we look at some of the big problems we face in the 21st century, it should be of significant concern to us all that we are becoming a nation of news-skimmers and news-avoiders.
“It’s frightening that the professional classes, the people we rely on to take an interest in social affairs and to hold politicians to account, are the most pronounced news avoiders.”
Picture: Reuters/Phil Noble