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Demos - New report: 59% of UK adults think moderators should be able to edit social media content

Quality Control, a new report by Demos supported by the Publishers Association, shows that the majority (59%) of UK adults think social media content should be edited by moderators to reduce its social harm.

The report, which features a new representative poll of 2,000 UK adults as well as analysis of the Millennium Cohort Data, shows that the public think social media either causes or worsens a range of social issues, including disinformation or ‘fake news’ (54%), followed by mental health conditions (46%) and self-harm or suicide (45%). Younger adults were less likely to be in favour of social media moderation, with 45% supporting the idea, as opposed to 71% of those aged 55+.

The report recommends the establishment of a voluntary ‘citizen editors’ training scheme, developed in partnership with the publishing industry, to help current social media moderators more effectively manage potentially damaging content.

Other recommendations include: the development of a public service publishing ethos to help create an online environment where harmful and poor quality content is less valued; that tech companies should develop new product standards to promote a better reading environment, including a ‘reading mode’ on mobile phones and that digital publications should be zero rated for VAT in line with print publications.

The report polling also found:

  • A quarter of UK adults say they’re addicted to social media, rising to 42% of 18-34 year olds.
  • Despite spending the most time on social media, younger adults (aged 18-34) are also the most likely to have negative views about their use of it, and are twice as likely as over 55s to describe their social media use as unhealthy (26% vs 12% respectively).
  • UK adults enjoy reading books more than going on social media, with 46% saying they considered reading books enjoyable.
  • Teenage girls are more negatively affected by high social media use than boys. When looking at the Millennium Cohort Data, only 47% of girls who use social media for 3 hours or more report being happy, compared to 64% of boys in the same group.
  • Trust in all forms of media to deliver impartial accurate information is low across the population. Only 30% of UK adults trust academic papers or reports to deliver this, while only 25% trust newspapers. Social media and magazines were only trusted by one in ten (11% and 10% respectively).

Commenting on the report’s findings, Andrew Gloag, Demos Research Assistant and Quality Control co-author said:

“Up until now, too many conversations around online harm and social media have centred around the way in which new content is consumed. However, this report shows that we cannot escape the fact that much of the harm is caused by the substance rather than the style of content we’re interacting with.

“There’s also a clear demand for change: the majority of people want content to be edited, and just one in ten trust the information they see on social media.  Fundamentally, we need to find a way of incentivising the creation of high quality content, across all mediums.”

Stephen Lotinga, CEO of the Publishers Association, said:

“This timely and important report demonstrates the role that quality content and those that produce it could play in lessening the potential negative impacts of our online lives. Screen time isn’t inherently bad – it’s what we’re consuming that’s important, not how.

“Assessing and responding to harm in the online world is one of the most pressing issues of our time. The publishing industry’s products and skills have never been more relevant in tackling these concerns and could be a powerful antidote to some of the more harmful content practices online – not least disinformation. We all want healthier online spaces and Quality Control homes in on how we might create an environment where good quality content is championed and poor quality content cannot thrive.”

Media Contact

Maeve Thompson, Director of External Affairs, Demos
Phone:  020 3878 3955 | 07584 435393 (out of hours)


About Demos

Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think-tank: an independent, educational charity, which produces original and innovative research.

This report has been prepared by Demos on behalf of the Publishers Association.

About the Publishers Association

The Publishers Association represents book and journal publishers in the UK, spanning fiction and non-fiction, academic and education publishing in print and digital. UK publishing has a turnover of £6bn, with export income accounting for 59% of revenues. Our membership includes global companies such as Elsevier, Wiley, Pearson, Penguin Random House and Hachette, as well as many independent publishing houses and university presses. Our objective as an association is to provide our members with the influence, insight and support necessary to compete and prosper. | @PublishersAssoc

Report:  Quality Control

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