According to Pew Internet “a majority of U.S. adults – 62% – get news on social media, and 18% do so often”. But what happens when the news they get is not accurate or truthful?
Pew says “news plays a varying role across the social networking sites studied.2 Two-thirds of Facebook users (66%) get news on the site, nearly six-in-ten Twitter users (59%) get news on Twitter, and seven-in-ten Reddit users get news on that platform. On Tumblr, the figure sits at 31%, while for the other five social networking sites it is true of only about one-fifth or less of their user bases”.
At the same time Gallup says “Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This is down eight percentage points from last year”.
In many ways, the rise of the Internet and the social web has made things a lot better when it comes to being informed about the world. But in other ways—as with so many other things the Internet touches—it has made them much worse. And our trusted relationship with media (to the extent that we ever had one) has taken the brunt of the damage.
So where can Internet users turn for accurate, unbiased news and should we have to spend a lot of time online trying to determine which new stories are accurate and which ones are biased? That is an issue that is becoming more important because of the election. Do social media sites have a responsibility to “fact check” media stories or can they just wash their hands and say “that’s not what we do”.
My Facebook feed is full of both right and left wing stories so much so that I have stopped following groups aligned with my political beliefs. I just don’t have the time to read a story to determine if its fact based or bullshit.
Today the news networks are owned by corporations whose objectives are to make money. Even CNN stories are questionable. It used to be that news was a “loss leader” in that that weren’t expected to make money, just report the news. Those days are gone thanks to the profit motive.
So with all this, are there opportunities? Yes. I believe an unbiased news site can exist if there is a clear brick wall between editorial and corporate (profit). A social site that only posts fact checked news could be huge but it requires one thing..users to think.