Fewer people using social media to follow news, says Ofcom

Fewer people are using social media to follow news than a year ago, according to a new report from Ofcom.

Trust in social media as a news source, as well as belief in its impartiality and accuracy, has also fallen.

The regulator’s annual news consumption report found that the proportion of people using social media to follow news stories has dropped from 49% last year to 45% in 2020.

The research looks at how habits have changed over the last 12 months, but Ofcom said its report did not explore news consumption during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The figures show that while those who do use social media to consume news rated it less highly than last year in terms of trust, accuracy and impartiality, those who use platforms like Facebook and Twitter said they were less inclined to share articles than they were last year.

Social platforms have regularly been under scrutiny of their handling of misinformation, with many critics arguing internet companies are failing to adequately police their platforms for misleading and potentially harmful content.

According to the Ofcom report, after TV, which is used by 75% of people as a place to get news, the internet (65%) was the second most popular platform for getting news, followed by radio (42%).

And despite the general fall in popularity of social media as a news source, Facebook was named the third most popular news source overall, after BBC One and ITV.

The research also found that just over one in 20 adults consume their news via podcasts.

Elsewhere, the report found that interest in the news was high among older children – those aged 12 to 15 – with more than three-quarters of those asked (77%) saying they read, watched or listened to the news at least once a week.

Music was identified as the news subject which attracted the most interest among these young people, followed by celebrity news and serious news about events in the UK.

Amid ongoing concerns about the spread of misinformation, 89% of older children said they were aware of “fake news”, but more than half (55%) who use social media for news said they found it difficult to tell whether or not stories on such platforms were accurate.