Despite all the talk of alternative social networks like Donald Trump-backed Truth Social, far fewer people regularly get their news from these platforms, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.
A report(Opens in a new window) released Thursday by the Washington, D.C.-based affiliate of the Pew Charitable Trusts, finds that only 6 percent of U.S. adults regularly get their news from one or more of the following alternatives to major social platforms: BitChute, Gab, Gettr, Parler, Rumble, Telegram and Truly Social.
This is much lower than the share of regular news consumption previously reported by Pew(Opens in a new window) have found for Facebook (31%), YouTube (25%), and even Twitter (14%), the latter of which has been a frequent target of potentially unconstitutional state laws prohibiting social platforms from censoring content with any political authorities.
(Credit: Pew Research Center)
But among regular visitors to the seven sites Pew researchers surveyed for this report, 65 percent say they’ve found an online home there. The report says that these people “overwhelmingly say they are satisfied with their experience of getting news on the sites, that they find the information there mostly accurate, and that the discussions are mostly friendly.”
Considering how many of these sites have been set up as havens for supporters of the former president — whose main websites were banned after his lie that he lost the 2020 election to President Biden incited the January 6, 2021 riot on Capitol Hill — they won’t it should come as no surprise that the Pew survey finds that 66% of regular news consumers on these sites “identify as Republican or lean toward the Republican Party,” 33% self-identify as Democrats or Democrats.
That nearly reverses the split on mainstream social sites: 39% GOP or GOP, 55% Dem or Dem. In demographic terms, the Pew study finds that these alt-social regulars are slightly more male (52% vs. 48%) than established social media users, but less white—52% vs. 57%, with most of difference to be due to a higher Spanish share of 27% compared to 21% on the main social platforms.
The most compelling sales pitch for frequent users of these seven alternative networks: These platforms don’t control what they see. As the report says: “The meaning cited most often by people using alternative social media for news is that the sites provide a sense of free speech, lack of censorship and/or an alternative to more established social media sites .”
Except that almost all of these sites have mediocre content. Only Gab — a highly toxic forum launched by GoDaddy, Stripe and PayPal after one of its users posted anti-Semitic rants there before murdering 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 — is limited to removing spam and illegal content.
To get a deeper sense of these seven networks, Pew researchers looked at the output of 200 prominent accounts, “sampled from the top 5% of accounts on each site.” The study finds that 15% of these users had been banned or cut off from social monetization elsewhere, with the highest proportion of these exiles (35%) on video sharing site BitChute.
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The top topic mentioned by these prominent users in June: guns (on Gab, Parler, Rumble, Telegram, and Truth Social), abortion (on BitChute), and vaccines (Gettr). The economy did not make the top five on any of these platforms.
The Pew report also finds a troubling level of misinformation and bigotry, with posts about the Jan. 6 attack often containing phrases like “political prisoner” and “witch hunt” and others about LGBTQ issues laced with pedantic slurs like “pedo.” . and “beautician”. He also finds a strange dependence on the notoriously unreliable, prank-filled Gateway Pundit(Opens in a new window) as an external source.
Among US adults overall, Parler has the highest name recognition at 38%, followed by 27% each for Truth Social and Telegram. A global survey would likely find a higher number for Telegram, which recently reached 700 million users, ranks as a major network in countries such as India and has become a vital conduit of news during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Pew conducted its survey for this report online in May among 10,188 U.S. adults, all members of its American Trends Panel(Opens in a new window)and weighted it to represent American demographic patterns.
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