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Americans widely distrust social media, say privacy in danger: poll

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen on a video screen,. (File photo)

Most Americans do not trust social media giants, including facebook and Twitter, saying the government needs to “do more” to rein in tech firms.

According to a Washington Post-Schar School poll, Americans of all ages and across the political spectrum largely say they don’t trust social media services with their information and they view targeted ads as annoying and invasive.

Seventy-two percent of Americans trust Facebook “not much” or “not at all".

Only 10 percent say Facebook has a positive impact on society, while 56 percent say it has a negative impact and 33 percent say its impact is neither positive nor negative.

About 6 in 10 distrust TikTok and Instagram, while slight majorities distrust WhatsApp and YouTube.

The poll also found 7 in 10 Americans believe their phone or other tech devices often listen to them in ways they do not agree to.

More than 8 in 10 Internet users say they see targeted ads at least somewhat often.

Among those who see adds, 82 percent say they are annoying and 74 percent say they are invasive.

Most Americans say that tech companies' collection of user information for advertising is unjustified.

The companies have no-cost products such as social media apps, search engines, and email. In exchange, they collect data and feed the online marketing and advertising industry while profiting off it.

Social media experts warn that “if it’s free, you’re the product.”

Sixty-four percent say the government should do more to regulate how Internet companies handle privacy issues.

This is a sharp increase from 38 percent who said the same in the 2012 Pew survey. 

Democratic support for the government doing more to regulate how Internet companies handle privacy grew from 45 percent in 2012 to 82 percent this year.

Republican support is also up from 30 percent to 53 percent.

Jack Goldstone, who directs the Center for the Study of Social Change, Institutions and Policy at the Schar School of Policy and Government, said what is striking about the results of the survey is how distrust of Big Tech unifies Republicans and Democrats.

The survey was conducted in November among a random sample of 1,122 adults nationwide.


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