YouTube’s in, Facebook’s out.
According to a 2020 digital news report the Reuters Institute published on Tuesday, the number of Americans who use Facebook for news decreased by 4 percent from last year. YouTube, on the other hand, saw a 4 percent increase.
Overall, 35 percent Americans use Facebook for news while 24 percent use YouTube.
The report came amid ongoing debates over how social media platforms should handle misinformation in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the imminent presidential election, and the mass social unrest around systemic racism and police killings.
Whereas Facebook has been continuously criticized for allowing disinformation and conspiracy theories to sow discord within Facebook Groups and through political ads, YouTube has made significant progress in reducing misinformation and conspiratorial content by tweaking its recommendation algorithms, barring misleading content, and fact-checking.
This platform shift in news consumption is not just local to the U.S., though. In fact, the average news consumption across 12 countries — including the U.K., the U.S., Germany, France, Japan, and Brazil — has steadily decreased on Facebook and increased on YouTube since 2016. (The Reuter Institute surveyed nationally representative groups of about 2000 people from 40 countries via the online questionnaires at the end of January and the beginning of February.)
At the same time, Facebook has become the most distrusted social platform across 40 countries, with 29 percent of all 80,000-plus survey respondents expressing concern about false or misleading information on the platform. Within the U.S., that number rises to 35 percent.
Only 5 percent of Americans expressed similar concerns about YouTube in comparison.
Still, as visual-oriented platforms increasingly gain traction as news sources, Facebook — the company that owns not only its namesake social media platform, but also WhatsApp and Instagram — remains overall dominant in the social media news landscape.
“By allowing Instagram and WhatsApp to develop separately, Facebook as a company has been able to cater for many different demographics and try new formats, without losing its core loyalists,” the report writes.
Instagram’s influence as a news destination is “increasing significantly” while YouTube slowly closes in on Facebook as the most popular social platform for news.
YouTube may have the lead over Instagram for now, but the Facebook-affiliate is lurking and catching up from behind.