Many users think they can’t control the news they see on Facebook

By Sommer Brugal


News Politics
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Younger Facebook users were more likely than older users to change their privacy settings this past year, despite recent admissions that the media site collected personal data without their knowledge, according to a recent study released by the Pew Research Center.

The study, which surveyed U.S. adults between May 29-June 11, found that 64 percent of younger users ages 18 to 29 reported changing their privacy settings on Facebook in the last year. Only one-third of users 65 and older chose to do the same. Similarly, 44 percent of young users said they deleted the Facebook app from their phone during that same time frame, compared with just 12 percent of older users, per the report’s findings.

Aaron Smith, associate director of research on internet and technology issues at the Pew center, said the findings weren’t all that unexpected.

“We’ve long found that young people are actually extremely privacy-conscious and active at managing their online identities,” Smith wrote in an email, “although that’s certainly not conventional wisdom.”

According to Smith’s report, older Facebook users are also more likely to misunderstand how the site operates, believe users have little control over the content that appears on their news feed, and do not try to influence the information that’s delivered to them.

In his article, Smith writes that many older users don’t understand the site’s news feed feature, with only 38 percent of users ages 50 and older claiming to “have a good understanding of why certain posts are included in it.”

Because older adults often have lower levels of technical knowledge, Smith said he wasn’t shocked to see that lesser skill translates to their Facebook settings. He did say, however, that past research indicated that having someone who can walk users through the intricacies of the platform or device has proved particularly relevant and helpful, specifically for older users.

Andrew Perrin, a research analyst at the Pew Research Center, also studied the trends and found that nearly 75 percent of Facebook users reported changes in their relationship with the social-media platform over the past year. He writes that 42 percent of users have taken a break from the site for several weeks at a time, while roughly 26 percent have deleted the app from their cell phone altogether.

Perhaps one of the more unforeseen revelations was the lack of partisan divide, despite the longstanding debate at the policy level about whether social platforms censor conservative viewpoints, Smith said in a phone call with the IRW.

“In light of all those arguments, we were surprised that Republicans and Democrats were equally as likely to use Facebook, and Republicans weren’t more likely to delete or disengage from the platform,” Smith said.

Over the past six months, Smith said Republicans and Democrats are using Facebook in the exact same ways.