In Zuck we trust?
Today it is Facebook’s 15th birthday. The social networking site, founded by Mark Zuckerberg as an online photo book for his classmates at Harvard University, has experienced a sharp growth, but was confronted with severe challenges last year (e.g. Cambridge Analytica scandal). To what extent did the controversy surrounding data leaks damage trust in social media? Sociologists Angelica Maineri (EVS central team) and Tim Reeskens (National Program director of EVS in the Netherlands), from Tilburg University (NL), published a piece on this issue in the Dutch blog Sociale Vraagstukken. The study combines data collected before the controversy on data breach started in the framework of the European Values Study 2017 in the Netherlands, with a survey proposed to the same respondents after the debate burst out.
The authors find that social media is the least trusted institution among the ones proposed to the respondents in the framework of the EVS 2017. It is also found that trust in political institutions spills over to trust in social media, in accordance with the “trust-nexus” hypothesis. Yet, only 15% of respondents display less trust in social media after the controversy, while 65% remain table and 20% even show an increment. So far, theoretical explanations failed to explain this change patterns. The data do show that respondents with little confidence in politics have increased confidence in social media. Perhaps it is true that people who oppose the government and mainstream media turn out to see more opportunities in social media to go against that government. Only additional research can unravel this complexity.