Commentary

Public Willingness To Restrict Online Freedom Is Worrisome

Americans have warmed up to the idea that government and technology companies should restrict false information online, even if it means losing the freedom to access and publish content, a study found.

The trend is worrisome -- a sign of misplaced trust in organizations that routinely deceive the public.

The portion of U.S. adults who say the federal government should adopt measures to restrict false information grew to 48% this year from 39% in 2018, according to Pew Research Center. Conversely, the percentage of people who said freedom of information should be protected, even if that meant false information were published, fell to 50% from 58% in the past few years.

Partisan divisions over the role of government in restricting false information have widened. Republicans and Democrats tended to have the similar views on the issue three years ago, but that’s not the case any longer.
The percentage of Democrats who want more government intervention on misinformation grew from 40% in 2018 to 65% now. Republican opinion moved in the opposite direction, falling from 37% to 28% during that period.
People tend to favor the idea that tech companies crack down on misinformation, rather than the government, though partisan differences also have emerged in the past few years.
The portion of U.S. adults who say tech companies should take steps to restrict false information edged up to 59% this year from 56% in 2018.
The percentage of Democrats who favor tech company restrictions grew to 76% from 60% during that period. Republican opinion again moved in the opposite direction, falling to 37% from 48% in the past few years.
It’s disturbing that so many people trust government bureaucrats and tech companies to be the arbiters of online information, a power that invites abuse and censorship.

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