Breaking news: People are increasingly getting their news online and on social media. In the United States, 93 percent of adults get at least some news online, on either a desktop or mobile device. About 30 percent of U.S. adults get their news on Facebook. The proportion of kids and young adults getting their news on social media is likely even higher. Trends of increasing digitization impact nearly every aspect of our lives, including banking, navigating, finding work and dating, and reading the news is no exception.
There are reasons to celebrate these changes in the media landscape. Social media democratizes the news, allowing people to follow and engage with stories that are important to them. Empowered with smartphones, protestors and passersby can report on events that are happening as they unfold; the good, the bad and the revolutionary. Many people with smartphones always have them on hand, allowing rapid access to breaking news at your fingertips.
Yet this quick access to the news of the day comes at two costs. First, while this access is quick for some, it is nonexistent for far too many. For the more than 62 million people in the United States who lack internet at home, this news is out of reach. The disparities in information access between the internet-haves and the internet-have-nots will only grow larger as more information is posted exclusively online.
The second problem for online news is the conflation of fact and opinion and of truth and falsehoods. As EveryoneOn continues its mission to connect one million people by 2020, this is a problem we must continuously consider. Pew recently conducted a survey which found that when offered five statements of fact and five of opinion, only 26 percent of adults surveyed correctly identified all factual statements as factual. A few months ago, MIT published a report about news stories distributed on Twitter, which found that between 2006 and 2017, falsehoods diffused significantly farther and faster than the truth. The same is true for other social media websites. Buzzfeed reported that as the 2016 election drew closer, engagements with fake news stories surpassed those with mainstream news.
In light of these statistics and trends, it is clear that getting connected, though critical, is only the first step in a process of lifelong learning as digital citizens. At EveryoneOn, we work with our partners to empower people at every step of this process. With the future of online news posing both great challenges and great opportunities, this work has never been more important.