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BizReport : Social Marketing : December 19, 2013

Three-quarters of Facebook posts subject to 'self-censorship'

Around one in three Facebook posts are never seen by others due to 'self-censorship', according to new research from the social network. However, there is one entity that gets to see all you post - Facebook itself.

by Helen Leggatt

Ever posted something on Facebook only to quickly retract it by way of deletion? You're not alone. A 17-day study of 3.9 million English-speaking Facebook accounts during 2012 found that 71% of people censored themselves at some point and over half (51%) deleted at least one post.

The study, "Self-Censorship on Facebook", was conducted by Sauvik Das of Carnegie Mellon University and Adam Kramer, a data scientist employed by the social network. They viewed activity on each profile by monitoring its HTML form element, which is made up of HTML code that changes whenever a user types in their Facebook chat, status update, or other areas where they speak to others.

Facebook says it does not track the actual words written, instead the company can determine when characters are typed, how many words are typed, and whether they are posted or deleted. This means it is possible to track "aborted status updates, posts on other people's timelines, and comments on other posts".

Status updates and posts to groups were more frequently censored than comments, and people with more "politically and age diverse friends" were found to censor themselves less.

"Decisions to self-censor appeared to be driven by two principles: people censor more when their audience is harder to define, and people censor more when the relevance of the communication "space" is narrower," concludes the study. "In other words, while posts directed at vague audiences (e.g., status updates) are censored more, so are posts directed at specifically defined targets (e.g., group posts), because it is easier to doubt the relevance of content directed at these focused audiences."

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: research, social media, social network, user trends

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