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January 10, 2024

More Americans Turn to Social Media for News

The future of news consumption is online, which makes it all the more important to reform our outdated content publishing laws.

A growing number of Americans are getting their news not from the traditional sources of newspapers, radio, TV, and cable news but from social media. Furthermore, but not surprisingly, the two generations most inclined to get their news from social media are Millennials and Gen Z.

A survey conducted in 2022 found that 45% of Millennials reported getting their news daily from social media sites. The study also observed that a growing number of Americans of all ages are consuming news via social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, X, and TikTok.

Mobile devices such as iPhones are the leading means for accessing these platforms, especially for teens. Interestingly, Gen Z teenagers, ages 14 to 19, are consuming news more frequently than Gen Z adults, ages 20-25. According to a media trends survey conducted by Deloitte Digital, 78% of teens are getting their news daily from at least one online source, compared to 69% of Gen Z adults and 84% of all other adults.

When it comes to social media platforms with the highest percentage of users getting news from the site, X leads the way with 53% using it for news consumption. However, this percentage is down from 59% in 2020. Similarly, Facebook users getting their news from the site has dropped from 54% in 2020 to 43% in 2023.

The social media platform seeing the biggest growth in news consumption on its site is Chinese-owned TikTok. Back in 2020, 22% of users got their news on TikTok. By 2023, that number had risen to 43%.

“Currently,” reported Pew Research in November, “43% of TikTok users say they regularly get news on the site, up from 33% who said the same in 2022. TikTok users are now just as likely to get news from TikTok as Facebook users are to get news from Facebook.”

And the age demographics that most use TikTok are teenagers and young adults. This doesn’t bode well for the future given Beijing’s documented efforts not only to use the platform to suck up gobs of user data but even more nefariously to use the popular platform to promote divisive and socially destructive ideologies. Indeed, TikTok is one of the psychological weapons now being developed by the People’s Liberation Army.

If a growing number of young Americans are getting their news from TikTok, just how reliable and trustworthy is that news?

This reality of an increasing number of Americans getting their news from social media makes even more important the need to prevent efforts by Big Tech and the federal government to engage in viewpoint censorship, which they typically couch in the language of preventing “misinformation” or “disinformation.”

Meeting Americans where they consume the news is where the current battle lines have been drawn. Democrats and the Left would love nothing more than to position themselves as the arbiters of what gets classified as reliable or trustworthy news and what gets blacklisted.

This is where TikTok being a Chinese entity creates quite a conundrum for conservatives. On the one hand, conservatives have repeatedly and rightly criticized Big Tech for its targeted censorship practices and for stepping all over Americans’ free speech rights. But on the other hand, conservatives are equally wary of the ChiComs using TikTok for nefarious purposes, such as promoting more division and distrust across the country and thereby furthering their own geopolitical aims.

The solution, as we have repeatedly argued, is revisiting the Section 230 protections that Big Tech companies have been using for their own advantage. These companies shouldn’t continue to receive the legal protections of a public platform while censoring speech they don’t like. If these Big Tech firms want to continue behaving like content publishers, they should be treated as such.

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