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UK Trust in Social Media Flatlines

Dominique Adams


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Trust in social media companies is at an all new low while trust in traditional media is on the rise. 

Trust in social media companies has hit a new low in the UK with less than a quarter of the UK population (24%) trusting social media. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, which had more than 33,000 respondents across 28 markets, has linked the decline to inaction on the part of these companies to tackle key issues.

Unethical practices, illegal behaviour, the proliferation of fake news, allowing the sharing of extremist content, and a failure to tackle cyberbullying effectively have all been cited as reasons why people’s trust in social media has eroded.

64% said they cannot tell the difference between good journalism and rumour. Scots, in particular, are concerned about social media exposing them to fake news.  Respondents indicated that they wanted these platforms to be more strictly regulated.

Over a third of respondents no longer think of social media as a force for good and 57% felt that social media companies take advantage of people’s loneliness.

Of social media companies 63% said that they aren’t transparent enough, 64% don’t feel they are regulated enough, and 62% fear that social media companies will sell their personal data without them knowing.

Figures hardly a shock

This comes as no shock after a slew of recent social media debacles, the most recent being the Aokigahara suicide video, which was uploaded by a popular YouTuber to the platform. YouTube was very slow to remove the footage sparking outrage online. Finally, when YouTube officially responded via a Twitter thread about the incident many users felt it was an inadequate and hollow response.

Facebook has already taken tentative steps to overhaul their public persona with recent changes to their news feed algorithm and now a decision to allow users to vote on the most trustworthy news sources.

Mark Zuckerberg said of this latest change, “This update will not change the amount of news you see on Facebook. It will only shift the balance of news you see towards sources that are determined to be trusted by the community.”

While this might seem like a progressive step it does run the risk of worsening the polarisation of opinions. If users are only shown news they have up-voted then they will only see and read articles that they agree with, thus putting themselves in an isolated thought bubble.

Trust in traditional news on the rise

As trust in social media declines, there has been a significant increase in trust for traditional media. Traditional media includes newspapers, magazines, television news and radio news.

Since 2017, confidence in traditional media has leapt from 48% to 61%, a level it hasn’t been since 2012.

Social media companies need to do more

In response to the report Damian Collins, the Tory chair of the Culture and Media, said: “Social media was supposed to bring people together, but in some ways is increasingly pushing people further apart by sowing messages of hate and creating a forum where people holding different beliefs are open to vile abuse.”

Ed Williams, chief executive officer of Edelman UK, said: “After a flood of negative headlines in 2017, it’s time these companies sat up and listened. The public want action on key issues related to online protection, and to see their concerns addressed through better regulation. Failure on their part to act risks further erosion of trust and therefore public support.”

Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, has been very vocal about the misuse of social media and has repeatedly urged sites such as YouTube and Facebook do more to tackle threatening online trolls.

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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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