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Majority says social media good for democracy

Despite many discussions about negative effects with social media, people generally see it as more of a good than a bad thing for democracy. In 20 0f 27 countries, a majority say social media has benefited democracy in their nation, according to a study by the Pew Research Centre.

“People in emerging economies are particularly likely to say social media has advanced their democracy. Assessments are especially positive in Nigeria and Mexico, where nearly eight-in-ten (77% each) say social media has had a positive effect on democracy.”

“People are far less certain in other countries, including the Netherlands and France, where more say social media has had a negative effect on democracy than say it’s had positive effect”, the Pew says in a report. 

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for social media regulation to curb the spread of misinformation. In 2023, he also suggested that access to social media should be cut during times of social unrest, including during riots over police violence in France.

Limiting internet access including social and news media have been a trick in several countries during various forms of protests.

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Americans are the least likely to evaluate social media positively, according to the survey.  Just 34% of US adults say social media has been a good thing for democracy in the United States, while 64% say it has been a bad thing.

“The role of social media in spreading misinformation has been widely discussed ahead of key US elections. And though majorities in both parties say social media has been a bad thing for democracy in the US, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely to say this than Democrats and Democratic leaners (74% vs. 57%).”

Young adults are more likely than older people to say social media has been good for democracy. In 14 countries surveyed, younger adults are more likely than older people to say social media has been a good thing for democracy.

“This difference is most prevalent in Poland, where 86% of adults under 40 say social media has benefited democracy in their country, compared with 56% of those ages 40 and older. Double-digit differences exist in 10 additional countries surveyed.”

“In 13 countries, adults with more education are more likely than those with less schooling to say that social media has been a good thing for democracy. In South Africa, for example, there is a 22-percentage-point difference on this question between those with more education and those with less.”

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“Those who use social media are significantly more likely than non-users to say that social media has benefited democracy in their country. In every country surveyed, there is a difference of at least 10 points between social media users and non-users on this question. Non-users, however, are also less likely to offer an opinion on this question in most places.”

Roughly half or more of adults in 26 countries use social media sites. It is most common in Argentina, Brazil and Malaysia, where over eight-in-ten report using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter (now known as X) and Instagram, data from the Pew shows.

In Europe, Germany (51%) is the only country where fewer than six-in-ten adults say they use social media. And in the Asia-Pacific region, India (47%) is the only country where fewer than seven-in-ten say this.

News avoidance and misinformation are growing problems especially in a big election year like 2024 with citizens in 76 countries, including the US, going to the polls. 

Social media is increasingly important as a news source for Europeans, a recent Eurobarometer shows. 

Pew Research data says social media play a crucial role in Americans’ news consumption with half of adults at least sometimes getting news there. But a growing number says inaccurate news reports is a problem. 

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Those who get news on social media name a variety of things that they like about it, including convenience, speed and the element of social interaction. But accuracy, low quality and politically biased news on social media are concerning. 

The share who say inaccuracy is the aspect they dislike most has increased from 31% to 40% in the past five years.

Convenience remains the top thing people like most about getting news on social media. One-in-five social media news consumers say this, with responses such as “It’s at my fingertips,”

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