The Reuters Institute has conducted research on how news audiences interact with Twitter (now known as X). According to the report, despite some changes to the social media platform’s user base, as well as shifts in the relationship between the platform and news organisations, the platform is still seen as a destination for news and politics.
The survey for the report was conducted whilst the platform was known as Twitter and the findings in the report refer to Twitter. According to the Digital News Report 2023, most Twitter users are based in the US. “A quarter (25%) of people in our US survey say they use Twitter for any purpose, while 14% use it for news. This is lower than the proportion of people in many Asian markets – though, in absolute terms, the US has the highest total number of Twitter users, followed by Japan. In Europe, usage of Twitter in our survey is relatively high in the UK, Ireland, Spain, and Turkey. Elsewhere in Europe, usage is limited,” says the report.
Takeaways from their research include:
- Twitter’s user base in general and for news is not representative of the wider population, with a minority in all countries using the platform.
- Twitter users are more likely to be men than users of other social media platforms. Users also tend to be more well-off and well-educated, as well as more interested in news and politics. However, the platform’s users are no more partisan than users of other platforms.
- Use of Twitter for news is highest in markets in Asia and Latin America, with the lowest usage in mainland Europe.
- Even though the platform has undergone many changes, Twitter’s use for any purpose and news has remained remarkably stable in the data over the last 10 years.
- Twitter, compared to other platforms, is considered more of a destination for news – particularly news about politics from mainstream brands, smaller/alternative sources, and politicians.
- There is some evidence that people form partisan, like-minded communities clustered around some political topics on Twitter. However, research also indicates that users are likely to be exposed to more diverse news and perspectives due to using the platform.
- While misinformation does circulate on Twitter and there are legitimate concerns about this, past research indicates that the prevalence and reach of false information have been more limited than assumed. However, empirical research has not yet studied the effect of recent changes to the platform
Misinformation is still a concern
Despite social media users using Twitter for news, there is still a concern about the spread of misinformation and false information on the platform. According to the report, “there have been legitimate concerns about false information on Twitter (and other platforms) for many years. But as a result of changes at the company, renewed concerns have been raised about a potential increase in the amount of false and misleading information spreading on Twitter (now X)”. The Reuters Institute’s data from January/February 2023 shows that Twitter users have a higher degree of concern about false information online than other people.
“The platform known as a destination for news also faces an uncertain future as the relationship between the press and Elon Musk is not always positive.” says the report.
To read the full report, click here.
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