Policy report

Social media appears in the news cycle, almost daily, and the majority of the coverage is negative. Politicians from all sides, and bureaucratic agencies have been warning about the apparent danger social media pose to journalism, democracy, business, and civil society. But Australians are far more optimistic about social media than the alarmist narrative.

The Centre for Independent Studies commissioned YouGov to poll 1,024 Australians on their attitudes to social media. The results show Australians, regardless of age, value the ability to use social media to connect with friends and family, and believe it is more likely to connect people than isolate them from the real world.

Interestingly, more Australians thought social media had a negative rather than positive impact on society. However, those who used social media often, at least once a day, were the most positive about social media, suggesting the more a user relies on social media, the more positive they view its impact.

The most pertinent aspect of these findings, for politicians and policy makers, is that Australians are unlikely to support regulation if it limits the content they see on social media. Although there is a rush to regulate social media, it would be wise to consider a more classical liberal — non-interventionist approach — to ensure Australians are not disadvantaged by politicians eager to tame social media.

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CIS Policy Paper 37