Before now, people got their news from social media led by Facebook. But in recent times, especially after the 2016 US election, if you see a news story on Facebook, you’ll probably suspect it is fake.

This fake news, including bullying, toxic debates and privacy issues are now turning people off social news, according to a new study.

Instead more people are being driven to WhatsApp, the studied revealed.

The seventh annual Digital News Report said the fall in users accessing news on Facebook reflected concerns about privacy and the toxic nature of debate.

Changes to Facebook's algorithms, which had de-prioritised news in people's feeds, had also played a part.

The report sought to explore how people accessed news around the world.

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The research, by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, at the University of Oxford, was based on a YouGov online survey of 74,000 people in 37 countries.

It suggested young audiences were more likely to use WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat for news, partly because there was a growing desire to discuss news in relative privacy.

The proportion of those surveyed that accessed news via WhatsApp had tripled in four years, to 15%. This tended to be much higher in countries, such as Malaysia and Turkey, where it can be dangerous to express views in more open networks.

Report lead author Nic Newman said: "We're seeing many switching their focus to more personal, private spaces like messaging apps for sharing and discussing news.

"This gives people more control over where and how they engage, but also potentially makes public debate and news distribution even more fragmented and opaque."

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