Why Facebook users don’t care about the Russians trying to dupe them

Rick Newman
Columnist

There’s outrage in Washington over the Russians’ use of Facebook to sow turmoil during last year’s U.S. elections. But Facebook users barely seem to care. That’s probably because they’re used to fake news on Facebook (FB).

Yahoo Finance conducted an online survey to gauge Facebook users’ concerns over abuse of the platform by Russian propagandists and other types of hackers and scammers. Seventy-eight percent of respondents told us they’ve encountered fake news on Facebook, and 70% said they’ve received friend requests from accounts they believe to be fake. Nearly 1,000 people took the survey, which was conducted on Nov. 1. We limited the survey to people who have had a Facebook account within the past five years. Here are the full results.

Source: Yahoo Finance survey conducted on SurveyMonkey

Facebook’s reputation seems to have taken a mild hit from the Russian controversy. Fifty-two percent of respondents told us they trust Facebook less than they did a year ago, while only 9.6% told us they trust Facebook more. Growing distrust correlates with less activity on the site. Thirty-seven percent of respondents told us they use Facebook less than they did a year ago, while only 17% said they use it more. Since these respondents skew toward the Yahoo Finance audience — older, whiter and wealthier than the overall population — they don’t necessarily reflect how young people are using the social-media platform.

We found anecdotal evidence of growing discomfort with the tone of political discourse on Facebook. “Too many people use it as a platform to tear down others,” Ralph Comegna of Joppa, Mo., told Yahoo Finance. “Too many negative feelings and conflicts. Better to just disengage.”

Source: Yahoo Finance survey conducted on SurveyMonkey

“I liked it better when it first came out and was about people connecting socially,” said Jonathan Papac of Kennesaw, Ga. Now, he says, the site is “politicized and commercialized. No thanks!”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that policing the site has become “more important that maximizing our profits.” The company is in the midst of hiring 10,000 additional staffers to help improve online security. That means an astonishing 60% of its workforce will be allocated to controlling questionable users and content.

Source: Yahoo Finance survey conducted on SurveyMonkey

That could be a smart long-term move. In the Yahoo Finance survey, 44% of respondent said they plan to use Facebook less in the future, while only 19% said they plan to use it more. Still, there’s a difference between what people say they plan to do, and what they actually end up doing. “I’ve heard people for years say, ‘ I’m going to use Facebook less,’ or ‘Facebook is so yesterday,’” says Jim Anderson, CEO of Social Flow, a social media publisher. “Then Facebook posts another record quarter. I don’t think the evidence supports the idea that people are abandoning it yet.” Zuckerberg hopes to keep it that way.

Confidential tip line: rickjnewman@yahoo.com. Encrypted communication available.

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Rick Newman is the author of four books, including Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman

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