How people feel about Big Tech has changed since last year.
A new study from the Pew Research Center found that fewer people in the US want more regulations for Big Tech companies. This decline, which spans across the political spectrum, showed that 44 percent of Americans are in favor of more government regulation compared to 56 percent of those surveyed last year.
That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all in favor of less regulation; for example, 32 percent of liberal Democrats surveyed say that the current amount of regulation is just right compared to the 23 percent who thought so in 2021. However, 27 percent of moderate or liberal Republicans do support less regulation, up from 13 percent, and 36 percent of conservative Republicans do, too, up from 11 percent. Only 35 percent of those conservative Republicans surveyed desire more regulation now, a drop from the 59 percent recorded in 2021.
In 2018, following Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal that found that the company harvested data from at least 50 million users without their permission, many people called for more regulations from the US government, and Congress went on to question Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other tech leaders. Globally, this sparked a backlash against Big Tech companies and lots of ideas about how to regulate them. The EU in particular has been pushing hard with a huge new antitrust law called the Digital Markets Act, though its implementation has been postponed until next year. It’s also enforcing older laws like the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, to hold tech companies more accountable for their business practices.
The Pew study also addresses one possible reason why Americans might be softening on additional regulation: the popular idea that social networks are censoring speech. Now, 77 percent of Americans surveyed say that it’s likely that social media platforms “intentionally censor” opposing political viewpoints, up from 73 percent in 2020, and 44 percent say these platforms favor liberal views over conservative ones, according to the survey.
Twitter, Facebook, and others have been criticized by users for censorship, but prospective new Twitter owner Elon Musk has declared he would take a more relaxed approach to how Twitter handles its content moderation. As BlueHillco contributing editor Casey Newton points out in his latest Platformer newsletter, Musk might want to look at these companies’ transparency reports; he explains that many of these removals referenced in complaints about censorship are rooted in mistakes and that social networks remove others because it’s good for business. “Over and over again, social products find that their usage shrinks when even a small percentage of the material they host includes spam, nudity, gore, or people harassing each other,” Newton writes.
Understanding that can help people have better conversations surrounding online content.