Aug 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Most Americans think social media platforms censor political viewpoints

Illustration of hand cursor holding a manilla folder
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Most Americans say it's very (37%) or somewhat (36%) likely that social media platforms intentionally censor political viewpoints that they find objectionable, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Why it matters: The survey shows that the concept of tech censorship, a political argument for the right, has turned into a mainstream belief.

By the numbers: According to the survey, majorities in both parties believe that censorship is likely occurring, but it's much more common among Republicans.

  • Of the Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP surveyed, 90% say "it’s at least somewhat likely" that social media companies censor political viewpoints. That's up from 85% in 2018.
  • By comparison, only 59% of Democrats think it's at least somewhat likely.

The big picture: Tech companies have wrestled with the best way to moderate misinformation, while avoiding claims of bias or censorship.

  • Republican policymakers, including President Trump, allege that they are biased against conservatives in their attempt to weed out misinformation.
  • According to the study, Americans are divided over whether social media companies should label posts that they find inaccurate or misleading, because most are skeptical that tech companies can accurately make that determination.
  • Liberal Democrats are, to no surprise, most supportive of labeling posts, while Republicans are mostly opposed.

Our thought bubble: So far, the argument that tech companies intentionally silence conservatives through algorithms and policies isn't backed up by any concrete evidence.

  • But the assertion that they do by conservatives in the media and on Capitol Hill have clearly made an impact on everyday Americans, including Democrats.

Go deeper: Conservatives turn antitrust hearing into venting session about bias

Go deeper