A new report suggests more people are using social media as news sites, while WhatsApp appears to be Ireland’s preferred social media service.
Online sources and social media are being used more frequently as the main source of news in Ireland, particularly among younger people.
That’s according to a new report analysing the current state of digital news in Ireland. This annual report claims that for people aged between 18 to 24, social media is the most important source of news compared to other age groups.
Nearly 40pc of people in this age bracket chose social media as their main news source, with 31pc choosing other online sources that exclude social media.
David Robbins, one of the authors of the report and director of the DCU Centre for Climate and Society, told SiliconRepublic.com that when you “delve deeper” and ask what sources young people get their news from, it’s “influencers and celebrities”.
“Essentially, it’s people giving their take on the news, rather than any original reporting or what we would call journalism,” Robbins said. “I think that’s a concern, that there is a generation of people relying on celebs and influencers for ‘news’, yet who somehow believe that professional, trained journalists can’t be trusted.”
Looking at all ages, more men and women used social media over radio or printed newspapers as their main news source, with the same result for online sources. TV remains a common main source for news, however, with 51pc of those over the age of 65 still using it as their main source.
Smartphones remain the primary device being used by Irish people to access news, but the percentage fell for the first time in the latest annual report, from 72pc last year to 67pc in 2023. Connected or smart TVs saw a 6pc increase this year compared to 2022, sitting at 25pc.
In algorithms we trust
Nearly half of those surveyed (47pc) either strongly agree or tend to agree that they can trust news most of the time, though this has fallen slightly from last year. However, there is a concern in Ireland regarding what is real or what is fake on the internet.
More people in the survey felt it is better for algorithms to curate their news – based on preferences and viewing history – than for a human editor or journalist to curate what audiences see.
Despite this preference, more than half of those surveyed agreed with a statement that personalised news – based on algorithms – could cause them to miss important news stories or only encounter viewpoints that are similar to their own.
“The support for algorithmically-selected news may lead to the creation of filter bubbles and echo chambers, in which citizens see ever-narrowing selections of news content,” the report said.
WhatsApp leads in Ireland
The report suggests that overall, WhatsApp is the most popular form of social media among Irish users, with 72pc of respondents saying they used it for any purpose this year. This represents a 2pc increase compared to last year and has been on a steady increase since 2020.
In contrast, Facebook and Facebook Messenger have declined over the past year, though Facebook was still used by 68pc of those surveyed.
Robbins suggested that the popularity of WhatsApp could be due to the fact that it’s private and encrypted, along with the ability to set up communities on the app.
“It’s difficult to know what news content is being shared, because researchers can’t access the platform,” Robbins said.
Both WhatsApp and Facebook were used for news mostly by those aged between 25 and 54, with younger ages opting for options like YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, and Reddit.
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