Updated Jun 28, 2018 - Technology

72% of Americans think social media sites intentionally censor political views

Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than half of Republicans believe it is "very likely" that social media platforms intentionally censor political views that they consider “objectionable,” according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center.

Why it matters: Surveys show that Americans of all stripes don't always trust the information they receive from both mainstream media and Silicon Valley's online platforms. The trend is especially marked among Republicans.

  • 54% of Republican or Republican-leaning adults said it was very likely that social media platforms censor political viewpoints they find objectionable. An additional 32% said it was somewhat likely.
  • 64% of those adults say that major tech companies support liberal views over conservative ones.
  • 20% of Democrats or Democratic-leaning adults said it was very likely that the platforms censor political views, and 42% said it was somewhat likely.

But, but, but: There’s no strong evidence that the people who created and operate the major social media platforms built systemic political bias into them. Some of the highest-profile allegations of bias, about Facebook’s Trending Topics section and Twitter’s Moments feature, have focused on the very small portion of those platforms curated by humans rather than algorithms.

  • The companies are nonetheless aware of the tensions with conservatives: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently met with conservative figures in Washington, D.C. and, in 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted a group at the company’s Menlo Park, Calif.

The big picture: While 72% of adults say they can trust major technology companies to do the right thing only some of the time or hardly ever, 74% of people polled also said the impact of major technology companies on them personally was more good than bad.

  • Just over half of adults say that major technology companies should be more regulated than they are right now. Despite concerns over censorship, Republicans, who tend to favor fewer rules for business, are less likely to support more regulation than Democrats.

Go deeper: Axios/SurveyMonkey poll that found almost all Republicans and Republican-leaning independents believe news outlets report information they know to be false or purposely misleading sometimes or a lot.

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