Facebook Negatively Impacts Society, According to CNN Poll

About 76 percent of adults believe Facebook makes U.S. society worse while 11 percent say the social network makes society better and 13 find it neutral, according to a new CNN poll by SSRS. Roughly 50 percent said they know someone who bought into a conspiracy theory they read about on the site. Meanwhile, Facebook parent Meta Platforms says that beginning January 19 it will discontinue advertisers’ ability to target users based on their history of accessing content about health, ethnicity, politics, religion, sexual orientation and myriad other topics. The change applies to Facebook, Messenger and Instagram.

Among those considered frequent Facebook users — accessing the site at least several times a week — 70 percent say the social network harms more than it helps, while 14 percent say it has a positive impact on U.S. society, according to CNN. Although a majority of both political parties say the platform does more harm than good, the negativity is higher among Republicans, at 82 percent.

Among the majority who think Facebook is negatively impacting U.S. society, however, there is no consensus on whether the platform is mostly to blame, with 55 percent saying the fault lies with individuals and how they chose to use Facebook while 45 percent say the damage is due to the way Facebook is run.

In general, Americans expressed little belief in Big Tech’s good intentions, with 38 percent saying they don’t trust companies including Google, Facebook or Amazon “at all to do what is best for their users,” according to CNN, which reports that number is up from 29 percent in March 2019. About 35 percent of Americans say they “somewhat trust” Big Tech, down from 40 percent in 2019.

The New York Times reports that Meta — which “relies on targeted advertising for the bulk of its $86 billion in annual revenue” — has developed a distaste for the way some advertisers abuse its targeting tools. “We’ve heard concerns from experts that targeting options like these could be used in ways that lead to negative experiences for people in underrepresented groups,” said Meta vice president of product marketing Graham Mudd.

In 2019 Facebook was sued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for allowing landlords and home sellers to unfairly block their ads among certain users by filtering on characteristics like race, religion and national origin. More recently, Facebook weathered criticism about advertisers targeting far-right extremists and militia groups with promotions for body armor, gun holsters and rifle enhancements in the lead-up to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Related:
Facebook Allows Stolen Content to Flourish, Its Researchers Warned, The Wall Street Journal, 11/9/21
Political Campaigns Can Still Target You on Facebook, The New York Times, 11/11/21