Is social media a reliable news source?

Grace Monk, Editor

The increasing popularity of social media platforms such as Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and others, has led to many people relying on it as a news source. As digital media continues to grow, so does the spread of misinformation and disinformation on social media platforms.  

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, misinformation is defined as “the action of misinforming someone” or providing “wrong or misleading information.” Similarly, disinformation is defined as “the dissemination of deliberately false information, esp. when supplied by a government or its agent to a foreign power or to the media, with the intention of influencing the policies or opinions of those who receive it.”  

Misinformation and disinformation are commonly referred to as fake news, a term that gained popularity after the 2016 presidential election. When using social media as a news source, users are more likely to come across fake news. One reason for this is that social media platforms do not require users to verify information before posting it. This means that anybody can post anything they want.  

News outlets, on the other hand, tend to go through a process of fact-checking information before publishing it. While there are few consequences that come with individual users posting fake news on social media, news outlets risk damaging their reputation and losing public trust. The lack of consequences on social media enables users to post information before verifying it. Fake news may be taken down if it is reported, but it is likely that users have already consumed the information before that happens.  

In 2020, Pew Research Center reported that Americans who primarily use social media for political news are less likely to have knowledge on a wide range of topics and issues in the news and more likely to have knowledge about false and unproven claims. In 2022, Pew Research reported that 13% of Americans use social media as a primary news source, while 50% of Americans sometimes use social media as a news source.  

Social media uses algorithms to push content to users, which means that users who have already engaged with misinformation or disinformation are more likely to see it on their feed again. Algorithms can also cause users to have a single-sided view of different topics and issues. Social media algorithms are tailored to match users’ preferences, which results in them only seeing one side of a story rather than the full picture. This can make it difficult for users to develop their own opinion on issues and often leads to conflict with users who disagree.  

While print and digital news publications are more credible, they are not always reliable. The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics states that journalists “should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.” While journalists should be honest in their reporting, that is not always the case. A $1.6 million defamation case was filed against Fox News in 2021 after the outlet endorsed false election fraud claims during the 2020 election. Executive chief of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, has admitted to knowing that his employees were endorsing lies and did nothing to stop them.  

Unlike Fox News, most major news outlets aim to share accurate news, but many are still biased. As with algorithms, when news is biased readers engage with content that fits with their existing beliefs or worldviews. AllSides, a media company that measures news source bias, reports that consuming biased news can have negative effects, such as the adoption of polarized views, being manipulated into a way of thinking or voting, and a limited ability to understand others and the truth. Unbiased news does not exist, however there are a number of news outlets that are considered “balanced.” Reading a variety of balanced news sources can help readers gain perspective and avoid the negative implications of media bias.  

Although news publications are flawed, they are still considered to be more reliable than social media. Information and news shared on social media can be accurate, but users should be hesitant to take them at face value. When information is shared on social media and is something users find important, they should verify the information through a balanced news source. Some examples of balanced news sources include The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Newsweek and Forbes. To determine the level of bias a news source has, readers can reference the AllSides media bias chart located on  

Social media is a great way to engage with others and learn new information. However, users should be cautious when consuming information and take time to verify if it’s correct.