Australian report shows Facebook drive-by news readers trust news less

By Peter Bale


New Zealand and the U.K.


The contention that few Facebook users value the news, which I wrote about recently, appears to be potentially contradicted by a separate piece of research from Australian academics.

In a report ostensibly about how incidental rather than directly seeking news may lead to a deterioration of trust in news (to which the answer appears to be yes), the Australian researchers look at percentages of users as news consumers of one kind or another: incidental or intentional (just finding it on social media or actively seeking it out on social media).

It is the subset of users who find news on Facebook that may bring it towards the small percentage of total posts that are about news noted in the NERA report.

The Australian report by Sora Park and Jee Young Lee of the University of Canberra says of those exposed to news on Facebook in Australia, 54% found it intentionally and 46% found it incidentally. In Britain, the same percentages were almost exactly reversed, while in the United States, the behaviour appeared similar to that of Australian users.

It appears those incidental users are more likely to lose trust in news over time and more likely to see it associated with misinformation, the researchers suggested: “While trust in general news is no different between those who access news intentionally or incidentally, incidental exposure has a negative relationship to the trust in news on social media. This finding is more prominent among those who use social media as their primary source of news.”

The Canberra researchers also found — perhaps inevitably — that for those under 40, 60% relied on social media as their main source of news, but social media was still a significant source of news for those who also found news directly or on other platforms.

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About Peter Bale

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