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Trust the news? Most people fail to study social media even more suspiciously

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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Most people do not trust mainstream media and are even more suspicious of social media, one revealed on Thursday, although social networks have been crucial to underrated stories like LGBT and migrant issues.

The latest Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found a high level of skepticism towards news and commentary. Of more than 70,000 consumers surveyed in 36 countries, 33 percent said they couldn’t trust the news to be true.

Only 24 percent of respondents said social media did a good job separating fact from fiction, compared with 40 percent for mainstream media.

In countries like the United States and Britain, people were twice as likely to trust the news media to weed out fake news. Greece was the only country where people said social media was better at separating truth from fantasy.

“Although the mainstream media is not trusted, it is still twice as trusted to separate fact from fiction as social media,” said Nic Newman, lead author of the sixth annual Digital News Report, the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Fake news could be the best thing that has happened to journalism in a long time. It’s an opportunity to restore the value of mainstream brands and focus on quality. “

Newman said this has led to an increase in digital subscriptions to news organizations in the United States, with 16 percent now willing to pay for news compared to 9 percent, and evidence that more people might be willing to to pay elsewhere.

READY TO PAY

Despite the widespread belief that younger consumers wouldn’t pay online, the annual study that studies global news consumption found that people under 35 are willing to pay for quality news, just as they were for music and video services.

YouGov’s online poll was the first time Reuters has looked at reactions to the quality of information on social media. 54 percent of consumers now use social media for news.

The Reuters Institute, funded by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, previously researched general trust in the media and found a strong link between suspicion of the media and perceived media bias.

This was strongest in countries with high political polarization such as the United States, Hungary and Italy. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the mainstream news media for peddling “fake news” and gained momentum in the election campaign with complaints about unfair media coverage.

“But in the United States, confidence in the media has risen somewhat over the past year, partly because there has been a great deal of suspicion from people on the right, Trump supporters,” Newman said.

“While in Great Britain confidence in the media has fallen because the right-wing press is pushing a pro-Brexit agenda.”

Newman said social networks wouldn’t go away as users switch more to messaging apps for messages, frustrated with the debate on networks like Facebook and Twitter.

“Criticizing social media is very popular, but it is very good for random news and especially in countries where the media is controlled by the government,” he said.

“It exposes people to a far wider range of views and issues, like during the migrant crisis when people reported directly from camps … or on LGBT issues.”

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