Most Users Find Social Media Content Controls Ineffective

New research shows that for those who do use them, under half find content controls on social media platforms to be effective, highlighting a gap between the safety features’ intended function and their actual impact on user experience.

UK-based Ofcom’s Behavioural Insight and Research and Intelligence teams surveyed users on the personalized settings provided by social media and video-sharing platforms to manage the content they see online.

The purpose of the customizable controls are so users can choose to avoid seeing harmful or upsetting content.

However, the research reveals content controls fall short of their intended use for the majority of social media users surveyed.

It reveals almost half of users say they are aware of content controls but have never used them, and of those who have, less than half say their platform experience improved as a result.

Other findings of note include:

  • Around one in five users say they were unaware of content controls prior to taking part in the survey.
  • Users with experience of using them cite ‘aligning content with interests and preferences’ as the most popular reason for doing so.
  • The second most common reason shared by users is for ‘protecting themselves from seeing upsetting or harmful content’.
  • Ranking third is users ‘having seen something harmful or upsetting’ on social media platforms.
  • On a positive note, 68% of those with no experience of using content controls say this is because they are ‘happy with the content they are seeing’.
  • Just over a quarter of people who haven’t used them say it’s because ‘they don’t have time’, which could point to a need for improved user-friendliness.

The explainer graphic below presents some of the key figures:

Ofcom Graphic On Some Key Findings

This shows more can be done by social platforms in terms of improving their current content controls, as well as improving their users’ awareness of already-existing controls and their purpose in making the user experience safer and more enjoyable.

You can read the full report on the results of the research by visiting Ofcom’s website here.

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