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Social media gets thumbs-down in new US poll

Updated April 06, 2019

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“If America was giving social media a Yelp review, a majority would give it zero stars.” — AFP/File
“If America was giving social media a Yelp review, a majority would give it zero stars.” — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: Americans are fearful about the impact of social media firms such as Facebook and Twitter, with many saying they spread misinformation and divide the country, even though most people still use these networks, a new poll showed on Friday.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 57 per cent of Americans believe social media sites do more to divide the country, and 55 per cent said the networks are more likely to spread “lies and falsehoods” than genuine news and information.

“Social media — and Facebook, in particular — have some serious issues in this poll,” said Micah Roberts of the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, which conducted the survey with the Democratic firm Hart Research Associates.

“If America was giving social media a Yelp review, a majority would give it zero stars.” According to the survey, 61 per cent think social media does more to spread unfair attacks and rumours against public figures and corporations, compared with 32 per cent who say it helps hold those public figures and corporations accountable.

And 82 per cent say social media sites do more to waste people’s time, compared with 15 per cent who say time on these networks is well-spent.

The survey comes after a wave of scandals about manipulation of misinformation on social media, and with President Donald Trump and his allies attacking internet platforms over what he claims is political bias.

Despite the concerns, 69 per cent of those polled said they use social media at least once a day. The poll also found 59 per cent of Americans believe that technology in general has more benefits than drawbacks.

The public appeared split about whether the federal government should break up the largest tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook — 47 per cent agreed and 50 per cent disagreed.

Some 60 per cent of respondents said they don’t trust Facebook at all to protect their personal information — a finding following a series of revelations on how Facebook collects and shares personal data. That was a far greater percentage of distrust than for Amazon (28 per cent), Google (37 per cent) and the federal government (35 per cent).

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2019