Free speech debate targets big media
America's free speech frustration has pivoted from tech companies to media publishers, according to this year's Axios Harris Poll 100.
Why it matters: It's a sign of growing hostility toward publishers, with little recourse for people who think they don't do enough to guard against bias or misinformation.
- The lines between publishers, like The Washington Post, and platforms like Twitter where their stories might appear are becoming increasingly blurred — making it harder to be sure exactly who the public is blaming when they don't like the content.
- Tech firms are protected by internet laws that shield them from liability for what users post. But there's bipartisan momentum around changing those rules.
- The Axios Harris Poll 100 is an annual survey to gauge the reputations of the most visible brands in the country.
Details: A majority of Americans (57%) say publishers are responsible for content that goes against their personal values, not platforms.
- Only 43% said platforms were more responsible.
- While most Americans (58%) say technology companies are promoting free speech rather than hurting it, a major political divide persists.
- An overwhelming majority of Democrats (72%) say tech companies promote free speech vs. only (41%) of Republicans.
Yes, but: The gap between the two parties in terms of trust in mass media reached an all-time high during the Trump administration, which could impact how they approach the free speech debate.
- When asked who is responsible when content is published on a media platform that goes against their personal values, Democrats are evenly split (49% platform vs. 51% publisher), compared to Republicans (59% publisher vs 41% platform).
Between the lines: In the wake of the 2020 election, skepticism of mainstream media has intensified on the right, while frustration with coverage from Fox News has intensified on the left.
- Last year, Democratic lawmakers held a hearing about the role of cable and broadcast companies in disseminating disinformation and extremist content.
- A Pew Research Center poll from July found that Republicans are less likely to trust a media source if it's viewed as "mainstream."
The big picture: Tech firms are still some of the worst-performing companies in the Axios Harris 100 poll.
- Meta/Facebook ranked 97th of 100 brands on the poll, followed by Twitter, which ranked 98th. TikTok ranked 94th.