Pew Survey: Regulate Social Media

A solid majority of Americans said social media companies have too much influence in politics and almost half said they need more regulation.

That is according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

The survey was released in advance of a July 27 hearing in the House Judiciary Committee--"Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 6: Examining the Dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Alphabet (Google)"--where their respective CEO's Jess Bezos, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai are expected to testify.

The committee has been looking into Big Tech and antitrust and whether social media giants bought their way to monopoly by purchasing small companies before they became big competitors and before they became give enough to trigger antitrust reviews.

The survey found that 72% of respondents said social media companies have too much "power and influence" over politics (the survey was conducted June 16-22). Only 21% said they had "about the right amount" of influence and only 6% said they had too little.

The question was asked this way: "How much power and influence in politics today do social media companies have?" so it could be read as either the power their platforms exert via the third party content they host or their clout as multi-billion companies with multi-million lobbying budgets. 

While more Republicans (82%) than Democrats (63%) subscribe to the "too much power" theory, that is still solid majorities of both. Not surprising since regulating the edge is a pretty bipartisan issue. It's how to do it where the trains don't meet.

The study found that 47% of respondents say the government should be regulating major tech companies more than they do now, while only 11% said it should be less and 39% said it is about right.

Currently, the primary regulation of Big Tech is through merger reviews and the Federal Trade Commission's power to go after anticompetitive conduct through settlements or suits.

The survey comprised 4,708 members of Pew's American Trends Panel, "a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults [who] participate via self-administered web surveys." The margin of error is plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.