STUDY: 71% Of Facebook Users Self-Censor Posts

By David Cohen 

Facebook users who have ever started to type status updates or comments and then had second thoughts: You are not alone. According to a study by Carnegie Mellon University PhD Student Sauvik Das and Facebook Data Scientist Adam Kramer, 71 percent of the 3.9 million Facebook users profiled self-censored at least one post or comment over a 17-day period.

Das and Kramer said they determined the number of times users being studied censored their own status updates, posts on friends’ Timelines, or comments, and they detailed their findings in their abstract:

We report results from an exploratory analysis examining “last-minute” self-censorship, or content that is filtered after being written, on Facebook. We collected data from 3.9 million users over 17 days and associate self-censorship behavior with features describing users, their social graph, and the interactions between them.

Our results indicate that 71 percent of users exhibited some level of last-minute self-censorship in the time period, and provide specific evidence supporting the theory that a user’s “perceived audience” lies at the heart of the issue: Posts are censored more frequently than comments, with status updates and posts directed at groups censored most frequently of all sharing use cases investigated.

Furthermore, we find that:

  • People with more boundaries to regulate censor more.
  • Males censor more posts than females and censor
  • even more posts with mostly male friends than do females, but censor no more comments than females.
  • People who exercise more control over their audience censor more content.
  • Users with more politically and age diverse friends censor less, in general.

Das and Kramer added during the study:

Over the 17 days, 71 percent of all users censored content at least once, with 51 percent of users censoring at least one post, and 44 percent of users censoring at least one comment. The 51 percent of users who censored posts censored 4.52 posts on average, while the 44 percent of users who censored comments censored 3.2 comments on average.

Readers: How often do you find yourselves having second thoughts about content you are about to post on Facebook?

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