Feb 9, 2021 - Technology

Exclusive: Majority polled believe social media radicalizes people

Photo of smartphone screen with social media app icons

Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

A majority of Americans think social media "has played a role in radicalizing people," according to a new poll from Accountable Tech and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner shared exclusively with Axios.

The big picture: As misinformation proliferates online about COVID-19, vaccines and politics, social platforms are walking a tightrope between protecting freedom of speech and tamping down the flow of misleading content.

  • Online platforms have taken major steps to reduce the amount of misinformation and extremist content online, especially since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, but it's a never-ending challenge.

By the numbers: In an online poll of 1000 registered voters taken Jan. 28-31, 44% of respondents strongly agreed and 41% somewhat agreed with the statement that social media has played a role in radicalizing people.

  • 71% of respondents said the federal government should impose stronger regulation on social media platforms, and 74% said misinformation on social media is an extremely or very serious problem.
  • On the suspension of former president Donald Trump from Twitter, Facebook and other platforms, 47% of respondents said it came too late, 16% said it came at the right time, and 37% opposed the suspensions altogether.
  • 76% said social media platforms are at least somewhat responsible for the Capitol riot, and 7 in 10 said the riot was the result of years of unchecked extreme behavior online.
  • One in three people polled have seen posts online supportive of the Capitol attackers, 39% polled have seen posts promoting political violence and 37% polled have seen posts urging people not to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The poll has a 3.1% margin of error.

Between the lines: Social media platforms keep announcing new steps to limit the misinformation that drives extremism. But experts say that reversing radicalization will require an all-out national effort — a "Marshall plan against domestic extremism."

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