In Brief

Social media crisis of confidence revealed

Only one in four Britons trust social networks- and Facebook admits it can’t promise to be good for democracy

Social networks are facing a trust deficit, according to a survey which suggests two-thirds of Britons believe platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are not doing enough to prevent illegal and unethical behaviour.

According to the annual Edelman Trust Barometer, just one in four people in the UK trust social media, with the vast majority favouring tighter regulation of online platforms.

This public mood-shift against social media contrasts with growing faith in journalism. Traditional media, including broadcasters and print, enjoyed a rebound in public confidence, up 13 percentage points in the past year to a record high of 61% approval, while trust in journalists and business experts also saw its biggest gain since the survey began.

Ed Williams, chief executive of Edelman UK, a marketing and public relations company, said: “The public want action on key issues related to online protection, and to see their concerns addressed through better regulation. Failure on their part to act risks further erosion of trust and therefore public support”.

Facebook has admitted it can offer no assurance that social media is good for democracy, but the company said it was trying to stop future meddling in elections by Russia, or anyone else.

Addressing social media’s role in democracy, Samidh Chakrabarti, a Facebook product manager, wrote: “I wish I could guarantee that the positives are destined to outweigh the negatives, but I can’t.”

Allegations that Russia disseminated propaganda on Facebook in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election has led to a growing backlash against the platform, with Reuters reporting that “contrite executives were already fanning out across Europe this week to address the company’s slow response to abuses on its platform, such as hate speech and foreign influence campaigns”.

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