Pew Research has published its latest overview of how Americans use social platforms for sourcing news and information, which shows that Facebook is still the most influential social media news source, though overall reliance on social apps for news is decreasing over time.
As per Pew, around half of all U.S. adults now get at least some of their news and information input from social media apps, with Facebook leading the way.
As you can see, Facebook remains well out in front as the social platform where users regularly access news and information, alongside updates from friends and family.
But the influence of most social platforms in this respect is declining over time, likely due to more questions being raised as to the quality and reliability of news that’s shared in each.
Though there is one particularly notable exception:
As you can see in this chart, while Instagram has seen a slight rise in news usage, a heap more people are now getting news updates from TikTok.
Which is particularly noteworthy in the broader context of TikTok’s potential connection with the Chinese Government, which may or may not have a level of influence over TikTok content trends.
Various questions have been raised in the past around whether the CCP is able to influence the content that gains traction, or doesn’t, in the app, which could enable it to, say, boost pro-China narratives, and muzzle critical reports about the nation.
At one stage, reports suggested that TikTok was censoring discussion of Tiananmen Square, for example, while China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims has also, reportedly, been limited in the app, at times. The CCP does also exert direct influence over what trends in the Chinese version of the app (Douyin), so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that it could also have a hand in the same for Western users.
To be clear, there’s no definitive evidence that this is happening, but it’s one of the many concerns around the rising influence of TikTok in the U.S., and why it’s still facing a potential ban in America, and other regions (TikTok was also banned in Nepal this week due its “disruptive impacts on social harmony”).
With this in mind, the fact that more people are getting their news and information in the app will no doubt raise eyebrows in Washington this week.
In terms of demographic insight, Pew’s data also explores how male and female users engage with news content across apps.
“Women make up a greater portion of regular news consumers on Nextdoor (66%), Facebook (62%), Instagram (59%) and TikTok (58%), while men make up a greater share on sites like Reddit (67%), X (62%) and YouTube (58%).”
That could have some relation to the broader make-up of the relative user base for each, but it is interesting to note who’s turning to which app for news and information.
Overall, social media news consumption trends, outside of TikTok, have been fairly stable over the past five years, with around 70% of people getting at least some of their news input from social media platforms on a regular basis.
Facebook remains the most influential, based on overall news engagement, while the others have remained largely static, in terms of news usage.
So really, it’s only the TikTok angle that stands out, and that could raise more concerns about the rising influence of the app, especially among younger consumers.