Political polarization

Expert Voices

How global efforts to limit disinformation could infringe speech

man in a suit pointing at a computer whose monitor is glowing red
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The U.K. announced last Monday a sweeping plan to prevent the spread of harmful online content — part of a global trend of new content regulations targeting material designed to polarize and mislead.

The big picture: The British proposal, which comes on the heels of new measures in Australia and Singapore, would create a regulator empowered to punish social media platforms that fail to quickly remove harmful material, including disinformation. But these approaches — which focus on content rather than problematic behavior — have concerning implications for free expression.

The snap decision society

Illustration of a mob holding iPhones and iPads featuring images of pitchforks and fire
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Pervasive partisanship and rapid-fire social media echo chambers have exacerbated our tendency to jump to conclusions — about everything from Joe Biden's behavior to a student's encounter with a Native American man at a rally to the Mueller report.

Why it matters: Making assumptions is an age-old human flaw, but it is being worsened by the challenges of responding to an increasingly complex world at warp speed. Research shows the social media ecosystem can lead to snap judgments, even based on incomplete information, to reinforce emotional identities and ideological positions.