Facebook's level of distrust is down 33% in Australia – despite fallout from Cambridge Analytica scandal

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images.
  • Roy Morgan Research’s 2019 Media Net Trust Survey found that 44% of Australians distrust social media amid fears of “fake news, manipulated truth, privacy concerns, bias and hidden agenda”.
  • Facebook, however, has fared better than in the inaugural 2018 survey, with a 33% decrease in its level of distrust.
  • Facebook’s Australian managing director told Business Insider Australia the social network has been “working hard” to improve its score.

It’s not everyday that executives at Facebook get to wake up to positive headlines, but the latest Media Net Trust Survey by Royal Morgan Research has given them just that — finding improvement in the social network’s levels of distrust.

The survey — which quizzed approximately 1,200 Aussies in April — found 33% decrease in its level of distrust year-on-year, with the level of trust (a separate question) remaining steady.

Facebook Australia managing director Will Easton told Business Insider Australia the shifting sentiment is the result of hard yakka by the platform.

“Consumer trust and distrust are very important metrics for brands to care about and we’ve been working hard to improve on our scores from last year,” Easton said in an email.

“We are pleased this survey shows the level of distrust of Facebook has substantially improved.”

Facebook Australia has embarked on a number of public relations initiatives over the past 12 months, including a $5 million grant to digital journalism projects, banning foreign-funded political ads during the federal election and, more recently, removing the public likes on its Instagram platform.

But the decreasing distrust may also have something to do with time lapsed since the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal — which saw data from as many as 87 million Facebook user profiles harvested and sold to political operatives during the 2016 US presidential election — news of which broke around the time of Roy Morgan’s inaugural survey in April 2018.

Easton also pointed to other findings in the survey — which Roy Morgan did not make available to the press — which showed Facebook’s apps ranked highest for “usefulness”.

“82% of people said the Facebook app was ‘extremely useful’ or ‘very useful’, with Facebook Groups at 80% and Instagram at 77%,” Easton said. “This demonstrates the increasing impact our family of apps and services have on people’s lives.”

Business Insider Australia has approached Roy Morgan for confirmation of the figures and more information on the survey.

Social media platforms as an industry, however, did not fare as well.

The survey found that almost half of Australians (44%) distrust social media, compared to just 7% who distrust the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which Roy Morgan found to be the most trusted media brand.

“Australians told us that their trust of the ABC is driven by its lack of bias and impartiality, quality journalism and ethics,” Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine said in a media release.

“While their distrust of social media is driven by lack of journalistic standards, fake news, manipulated truth, privacy concerns, bias and hidden agenda.”

Levine said the survey shows CEOs and company directors in the media sector need to lean in to the topic of distrust by consumers.

“Distrust is where our deepest fears, pain, and betrayal surface – the shock of discovering we were foolish to trust too much,” she said.

“And nowhere is that sense of betrayal more profound than in our media brands.”

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