Survey: Most Think Social Media Platforms Censor Speech

A majority of Americans polled say they think it is likely that social media platforms are politically biased. That is according to a new Pew Research Center study that found 72% of adults feel that social media platforms censor political speech that those sites find objectionable, with 35% saying it is very likely and 37% somewhat likely.

And only 3% of respondents said they thought that major tech companies would generally do "what is right" just about all the time, while 25% said they would do so most of the time and the majority said they would do the right thing only some of the time. 

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Even so, a strong majority (74%) say that on balance major technology company products and services have had a more positive than negative impact on their own lives, and a smaller majority (63%), but still a majority, say that the impact of those tech platforms on society as a whole has been more good than bad despite that likely political bias.

Republicans are fairly sure of it, with a 85% saying it is either very likely (53%) or somewhat likely (37%).

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A majority of Republicans (64%) say major tech companies support liberal over conservative viewpoints. Appropriately, there is a definite political divide over whether respondents think that is the case, though even a quarter of Democrats think so.

Among Republicans, 64% say social media platforms favor liberal viewpoints over conservative, while only 6% say it is the other way around. Among Democrats, 28% say Silicon Valley favors liberals, while 16% say it favors conservatives and a majority of 53% say they favor neither.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said he understands the concern about a liberal bias in Silicon Valley, though says his company has no systematic policy to favor one type of speech over another, unless it is disfavoring hate or terrorist speech or other categories of speech that make the online community feel threatened. 

A small majority said that tech companies have too much power and influence over the economy, but that was far below advertisers at 71%, banks and financial institutions at 72% and the top powerhouse, pharma at 83%.

The study was conducted May 29-June 1 among 4,594 U.S. adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

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.