March 28, 2018
Barraged by accusations of spreading divisive fake news and amid new allegations that it handed over personal information on up to 50 million users without their consent, Facebook is losing the faith of the American people, according to a findings of a survey by Digital Citizens Alliance survey, released on March 21.
By a large margin (54% to 8%), Americans say that Facebook has had a negative influence on political discourse nationwide. In fact, fully 61% of the 925 adult Americans who responded to the survey believe that Facebook “has damaged American politics and made it more negative by enabling manipulation and falsehoods that polarize people.””
What’s more, nearly four out of ten (39%) of those surveyed who said that they no longer believe that Facebook is a responsible company,”because it puts making profits most of the time ahead of trying to do the right thing.” Fewer than one in three (31%) continue to think that the social media site is a good corporate citizen because “it tries to do the right thing most of the time even if that gets in the way of it making profits.” The rest were unsure.
The survey was conducted even as new revelations surfaced that a digital marketing provider to the 2016 Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica, inappropriately harvested personal information on millions of Facebook users The sharp rise in negative feelings is a significant departure from Facebook’s standing prior to the 2016 election, when the rise of so-called fake news and polarizing content led to calls for the company to take greater responsibility for the content on the popular social media site—or face government regulation.
By a plurality of 53% to 26%, respondents said that it should be Facebook’s responsibility to remove or warn about posts that contain false or misleading information.
And 59% stated that the company is not doing enough to address the issues of false and inflammatory information that appear on its site.
“Facebook is at a crossroads because of its inability – nearly a year-and- a-half after the election – to get a handle on its divisive effects on society,” said Tom Galvin, executive director of Digital Citizens. “From spreading fake and manipulative information to becoming a ‘Dark Web-like’ place for illicit commerce, Facebook seems to losing the trust of the American public. Regulation will not be far behind for social media companies if things don’t change.”
This declining trust reflects a growing concern about the impact Facebook and other social media sites have on young teens. In the survey, more than two in five Americans (42%) said that the minimum age to have a Facebook account should be at least 18 years old.
“Digital platforms have to rise to the occasion and assure Internet users that their personal information will be safe; that the content will be legal, safe and not contrived to manipulate. In short, they have to demonstrate they will be the positive influence on our society that they espouse to be,” said Galvin.
Research contact: @4SaferInternet