It’s a real challenge to find just about anything that Republicans and Democrats can agree upon in the current political climate, but Pew Research Center managed to do just that. As it turns out, in both parties believe their views are being suppressed by social media.
A total of 72 percent of all US adults surveyed by Pew said it’s at least somewhat likely that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally censor certain viewpoints. Predictably, the number is much higher with Republicans, but Democrats have a similar sense of being censored.
Nearly nine in 10 of all Republican and Republican-leaning adults polled by Pew said that it was likely the social media companies were going out of their way to prevent political views from being shared on their platforms, with more than half, 54 percent, saying that such suppression is very likely. And of course, most of them believe it is their voices being suppressed—64 percent of Republicans surveyed said social media sites favor liberal voices.
Some of those concerns are at least plausible: former workers at Facebook claimed to routinely suppress conservative viewpoints in its now-defunct trending news feature. That sent conservative sections of the internet into such a frenzy that Facebook was forced to run an apology tour and participate in a conservative bias probe.
But some of the concern is grounded in conspiratorial nonsense. The right got worked up earlier this year over a video from bullshit artist James O’Keefe when he went undercover to interview Twitter employees. While he claimed to reveal liberal bias within the company and attempts to smother conservative voices, he actually found pretty much nothing. Using his usual deceptive editing techniques, O’Keefe made it appear as though Twitter “shadow bans” conservative accounts. It doesn’t, but that didn’t stop the story from spreading.
In another case of completely useless outrage over perceived bias, the Trump supporting sister duo of Diamond and Silk managed to get their own hearing in front of the US House Judiciary Committee, where they accused Facebook of censoring them. Those claims have been thoroughly debunked.
Those types of stories are typically the ones that end up being the focus of conversation when it comes to censorship on social media—Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had to answer questions about Diamond and Silk when he testified before Congress earlier this year, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is undoubtedly fielding questions about O’Keefe’s claims during his meetings with Republican figureheads—which is a waste of everyone’s time.
Conservatives lead the way in thinking there is intentional censorship taking place on social media, but they aren’t alone. Pew found that Democrats and Democrat-leaning adults also largely believe it, with 62 percent telling Pew it’s at least somewhat likely censorship is taking place. They still believe to a larger extent that social media companies favor liberal viewpoints, though 16 percent believe the sites favor conservatives.
The apparent distrust of social media companies to fairly police discourse also produced one more area that both sides of the political spectrum appear to agree on: Republicans and Democrats alike believe social media should be more heavily regulated. Fifty-one percent of all Americans surveyed said they supported more regulation, and shockingly more Republicans (44 percent) supported increased regulation than said there should be less (12 percent) or about the same (43 percent).
Despite all that, most people still believe social media has a net positive impact on their lives and on society as a whole. Sixty-three percent of all adults said social media, on the whole, is a benefit to the world, and 74 percent said sites like Facebook and Twitter have a positive effect on their lives.
Facebook and Twitter did not respond to request for comment. We will update this story if we hear back.