19:56 GMT28 February 2021
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    Amid ongoing investigations into the deadly Capitol riot, concerns have been raised over netizens’ use of Facebook to spread conspiracy theories and misinformation on hot-button topics, such as the validity of the 2020 presidential election.

    A Newsy/YouGov survey has determined that the majority of Americans believe social media giant Facebook serves as the hotbed for misinformation, despite efforts by the platform to moderate questionable content.

    Commissioned by market research company YouGov, the Monday-released survey determined that over 65% of polled American adults found that they regularly encountered misinformation while logged onto Facebook.

    Misinformation found on Facebook topped any misleading information voiced by politicians, uncovered on Twitter, on cable news, online news sites, or broadcast television, according to the survey.

    However, that does not necessarily indicate that they were complacent users since many of the 1,000-plus polled individuals revealed that action was taken in response, with many of those polled indicating they countered with content from legitimate news sources (35%), unfriended someone who spread misinformation (29.3%) or decided to quit at least one social media platform (20.4%).

    Asked what they believed were the best options to combat misinformation, the majority of survey participants (56.8%) noted that platforms were best off by simply improving their moderation efforts. Others suggested that some reporters who shared misinformation should be suspended (52.6%), as over 50% suggested that banning influential individuals would be an effective countermeasure.

    With the sudden spike in misinformation, only 24.5% of respondents acknowledged that their ability to detect false information had “significantly increased,” whereas the majority (40%) indicated they were unable to detect a change.

    The survey was conducted between January 22 and 25 as part of Newsy’s participation in the National News Literacy Week. Information regarding the survey’s margin of error was not provided.

    The poll came as the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that Facebook executives have known for years that the platform’s group pages allowed for the creation of toxic communities that spread misinformation and called for violence.

    In fact, a document reviewed by the outlet revealed that researchers informed executives in August that daily “enthusiastic calls for violence” were voiced in one group that carried a 58,000-strong following. The findings further concluded that “70% of the top 100 most active US Civic Groups are considered non-recommendable for issues such as hate, misinfo, bullying and harassment.”

    As a result of the report, Facebook has enforced stricter methods to deter individuals from voicing false claims and bolstered moderation efforts; however, the company has noted that it still has a ways to go before being able to fully curb all misinformation posts.

    Incidentally, the survey also came on the coattails of an ongoing critique of Facebook regarding its use of user data and how the company taps the information to push directed advertisements toward netizens. 

    In a bid to counter critics, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, issued an open letter Sunday stating that Facebook is by no means “controlling the minds'' of its users. Clegg also took the opportunity to underscore that social media is not necessarily the “chief cause of rising polarization,” as research shows that society was polarized before social media came along.


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