If You Use Facebook to Get Your News, Please — for the Love of Democracy — Read This First

If You Use Facebook to Get Your News, Please — for the Love of Democracy — Read This First

In this Tuesday, April 28, 2015 photo, an unidentified person uses a mobile phone to read the news from The Huffington Post on Facebook, in Los Angeles. “State of the News Media 2015,” published Wednesday, April 29, 2015, by the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project found that nearly half of Web users learn about politics and government from Facebook, roughly the same percentage as those who seek the news through local television and double those who visit Yahoo or Google News. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
In this Tuesday, April 28, 2015 photo, an unidentified person uses a mobile phone to read the news from The Huffington Post on Facebook, in Los Angeles. “State of the News Media 2015,” published Wednesday, April 29, 2015, by the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project found that nearly half of Web users learn about politics and government from Facebook, roughly the same percentage as those who seek the news through local television and double those who visit Yahoo or Google News. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

 

(The Washington Post) – Facebook’s 1.44 billion users rely on the site for lots of things: keeping in touch, sharing photos, casual stalking.

But if you get your political news through Facebook, as more than 60 percent of millennials do, please browse with extreme caution: The site doesn’t show you everything, and may subtly skew your point of view.

This is not, of course, a new fear; moral panic over “echo chambers” and “filter bubbles” is as old as the social Web, itself. But a new survey by the Pew Center, released on Monday, suggests there may be some new urgency here. Per that survey, a majority of American Internet users now get political news from Facebook — and the 2016 elections, as we know, are in just over a year.

That’s really important, and important to understand, because Facebook is quite unlike traditional conduits of news. (Think: your local ABC affiliate, your gossipy neighbor, this page, what have you.) As in those more traditional settings, Facebook gives you a great deal of control over which sources you follow and what you choose to read. But unlike those other, traditional sources, Facebook also hides many stories selectively. According to a recent Washington Post experiment, as much as 72 percent of the new material your friends and subscribed pages post never actually shows up in your News Feed.

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