OXFORD: Facebook is increasingly being shunned as a news source amid signs that global consumers now prefer to use messaging apps, especially WhatsApp, for news.

That is according to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, based at the University of Oxford, which found that just 23% of people around the world trust news on social media compared with 44% who trust news sources overall.

Now in its seventh year and based on an online survey of 74,000 people across 37 countries, the 2018 Digital News Report revealed that weekly use of social media for news in the US has fallen six percentage points to 45% over the past year, with declines also observed in other key markets, such as the UK, France and Germany.

Looking at these declines in more detail, the Reuters Institute found they are “almost entirely” due to changes in the use of Facebook, consistently the most widely used social network for news in almost every country.

News consumption via Facebook is down 9 percentage points in the US and 20 points among younger consumers, while the use of Facebook for news in Brazil has fallen to 52% – a 17-point change from 2016.

Although the use of Facebook for any purpose has remained broadly static in the markets surveyed, the number of people accessing the platform for news declined by two percentage points in the UK and France since 2017, falling further in Ireland (-3), the Netherlands (-3) and Denmark (-5).

Taken together, average news usage for Facebook has fallen from 42% in 2016 to 36% today while other networks are stable or have been growing rapidly.

For example, WhatsApp (which is owned by Facebook) is now used for news by around half of online users in Malaysia (54%) and Brazil (48%) and by around a third in Spain (36%) and Turkey (30%).

“To some extent these increases have also been driven by publishers changing their strategies, in a bid to become less dependent on Facebook,” said Nic Newman, research associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

“For example, more media companies have adopted the ‘Instagram story’ format, which now attracts around 300m daily active users per day,” he added.

Among the other comprehensive findings, the survey also found that more than half (54%) of global consumers agree or strongly agree that they are concerned about what is real and fake on the internet.

And this is highest in countries like Brazil (85%), Spain (69%) and the US (64%) where “polarised political situations combine with high social media use”, Newman explained.

He added that there is some public appetite for government intervention to stop “fake news”, especially in Europe (60%) and Asia (63%), but, by contrast, only four in ten Americans (41%) believe governments should do more.

Sourced from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism; additional content by WARC staff