More than ever, young people are using the internet to keep up with news rather than traditional sources such as television or radio, according to the latest Ofcom news consumption report.
The annual study examines how UK adults and young people consume news across a range of platforms, spanning television, radio, print, social media and podcasts.
According to the report, nearly nine-in-ten Brits aged 16-24 follow news stories online, compared with less than two-thirds (61%) who access news via television.
In Scotland, television remains the most-used platform for news content, and is used by 79% of adults. However, social media and other websites or apps are also included among most-used platforms by Scots of all ages.
Notably, nearly half (42%) of adults in Scotland primarily use Facebook to access content, making it the third most-popular general news source in the country behind the BBC One and STV news channels.
Facebook’s popularity among Scots increased by around 2% on the year previous, Ofcom found, while Twitter’s usage also increased by 5%.
Twitter ranked fifth behind the BBC website, according to the report – meaning two of the most-popular social media platforms are included in the country’s top five most-used sources of news.
Two arguably surprising entrants, given their format, are Instagram, used by 19% percent – making it the third most-popular news source alongside WhatsApp.
Snapchat, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitch and TikTok are also social media platforms which Scots continue to turn to for news, according to Ofcom.
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Social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have come under fire in recent years amid growing concerns over the rise of misinformation and fake news.
In 2019, a DCMS committee examining disinformation and fake news labelled Facebook ‘digital gangsters’ following a lengthy investigation.
Speaking at the time, committee chairman Damian Collins MP warned that the social media giant posed a risk to British democracy due to the “malicious and relentless” targeting of UK citizens with disinformation.
More recently, the issue of misinformation has been exacerbated. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, Facebook has fought an uphill battle to stem the tide of anti-vaccine and Covid-related conspiracy theory content.
The firm has repeatedly pledged to crack down on fake news and misinformation, and earlier this year introduced a raft of new features to cut down on anti-vaccine content.
Jamie Kerr, founder of Glasgow-based mental wellbeing social media platform, MindKite, said the findings of the Ofcom report highlight the power of social media in news consumption, but raised concerns about the rise of fake news.
He said: “Most people’s first source of news is now social media. It’s not journalistic based news anymore, it’s consumer driven which also allows room for a lot more misinformation or “fake news”.
“Then it’s recirculated and commented on, and altered with icons and tags, making it vastly different from the original.”
Kerr added: “Without regulations, the news we get fed through social media or what seems like news, will lead us down a very slippery path. The lack of true knowledge and understanding of what’s happening in the world is an issue.”