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Poll Shows 61% of EU Citizens Want Social Media Behavioural Profiling-based Recommender Systems Turned Off

16 MAY, BRUSSELS - Ahead of next month’s critical EU Parliamentary elections, new polling from YouGov show EU residents in France, Germany and Ireland overwhelmingly want social media companies to stop “using behavioural profiling by default,” and instead be based on the content that users themselves decide they want to see. The proposal was favoured by 61% and opposed by only 9%. [See full results here]

The nationally representative poll of 4182 adults which was commissioned by People v. Big Tech in partnership with The London Story and Real Facebook Oversight Board, also showed that by a 30-point margin, 54-24, EU residents believe social media platforms are not doing enough to prevent harmful content being shown to users. 55% are not comfortable with “behavioural profiling,*” the current default on all major social media platforms.

“With the election three weeks away and investigations showing the system blinking red, with Kremlin disinformation and election hate speech proliferating across Europe, poll respondents clearly want platforms that are safe by default,” said Tanya O’Carroll, Founder of People v. Big Tech. “The good news is that Commissioner Breton and EU leadership can still make it happen, and act to safeguard the election from algorithmic malfeasance.”

Concurrent with the release of the poll, advocates today also launched a campaign to share a Spotify PlaylistHey Ya! Mr Thierry, with Commissioner Breton, who has used Spotify playlists to communicate the impact of the DSA and other digital policies.

Advocates this afternoon will also be bringing their message directly to the European Commission, with a “Feed Fix” food bike offering chocolates to passers-by - if they accept the “terms and conditions” presented on a faux receipt listing potential social media harms. These show the “real price” of social media. [Images available approx 12:30 PM CEST]

“The poll reflects an EU citizenry deeply concerned about the corrosive effects of social media, and uncomfortable with the ways algorithms target them to keep their attention,” said Clara Maguire, Executive Director of The Citizens. “Social media giants know how to make their platforms safer, but refuse. We’re calling on the EU to make the choice for them.”

When asked “to what extent, if at all, are you comfortable with behavioural profiling?,” 27% responded “not at all,” with 55% expressing some level of discomfort. Ireland, which just debated nationally the merits of “safe by default,” showed the strongest support by agreeing the proposal to be implemented that helps reform social media where social media companies would stop using behavioural profiling by default. Social media feeds would instead be based on the content that users themselves decide they want to see - 77%.

Under the Digital Services Act, which was passed in 2023 and went fully into effect in 2024, the EU has wide-ranging authority to address algorithmic risks on social media. The EU has already launched an investigation into potential foreign interference with elections on Meta’s platforms; advocates are calling on Commissioner Breton to go further - turning off behavioural profiling in recommender systems by default, and also introduce other “break the glass” measures to reduce the amplification of harmful content the week before and after the June 6th election.

“An investigation is warranted and welcome, but we need action - now,” said Ritumbra Manuvie, Executive Director of The London Story. “The message we’re taking to the Commission today - and the clear message EU residents sent in today’s poll, is fix our feed … before it's too late.”

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4182 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th April - 7th May 2024. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been given an even weighting for each country to produce an ‘average’ value.

For interviews and more information, please contact [email protected].

*Ed Note: Behavioural profiling is defined for this polling as “social media platforms monitoring the posts you read, videos you watch, your comments, reactions, as well as your activity across the internet. Platforms then use this data to select what content to show you to keep you longer on the platform.”


People vs Big Tech is an open network of civil society organisations and concerned citizens working together to challenge the power and abuses of Big Tech. Our first major priority is to ensure today’s tech titans and their legions of lobbyists are not allowed to be the dominant designers of tomorrow’s technology regulations. The network’s current major focus is to distil key legislative priorities in European regulation, highlight moments for targeted action, and amplify opportunities anywhere for people-powered mobilisation in the fight to increase public and political support for Big Tech accountability.

The London Story is an Indian diaspora-led civil society organisation. We advocate for justice, peace, and collective action against grave human rights violations.

Real Facebook Oversight Board, founded as an emergency response to the harms of Meta in the leadup to the 2020 Elections, is a diverse global coalition of the most dynamic, creative and critical voices today in civil rights, human rights, social media policy, disinformation research, extremism and the role of social media in society.