A plurality of Washington residents resist moderation of social media content and rate the news they encounter online as at least half-truth, according to a recent statewide poll.
Results from the WA poll, conducted among hundreds of Washington adults last month, show mixed feelings about what information is shared via social media and how.
Republicans were more frequently opposed to moderation than Democrats, and the poll also showed that most people have moderate or low confidence in the accuracy of neighborhood groups like Nextdoor.
Questions about local social media groups, the moderation of social media content, and the falsity of online news and information were asked of 719 registered voters in Washington.
As social media has become an important source of news for Americans, debates about free speech, elections, and misinformation on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms have proven contentious, said Jevin West, professor and co-founder of the University of Washington Center. for an informed public.
Overall, 48% of respondents said state governments should not be involved in regulating content moderation by social media platforms, while 28% said governments should be involved.
However, 48% of people said social media platforms should restrict content or accounts that share rumors, conspiracy theories or misleading information that could undermine trust in voting in US elections. Thirty-five percent said social media platforms should not restrict content that could undermine trust in elections.
The survey was sponsored by the Seattle Times, KING 5 TV, the Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington, and the Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. These questions have a credibility interval of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Republicans were less likely than Democrats to favor moderation on both issues, whether by a state government or by the company itself.
West said this partisan split aligns with the national narrative being pushed by each party, with Republicans saying social media companies have removed conservative-leaning content and Democrats saying companies need to do more to weed out misinformation.
West said he was surprised to see a high percentage of people against any type of content moderation on social media given recent debates. Even Elon Musk, he said, a proponent of free speech on social media, tried to impress on Twitter advertisers that the platform would not be a “free hellscape for all “.
While people support a “free and fair” marketplace of ideas, social media companies have the power to create unfair advantages for certain types of content, he said.
“Platforms are making a ton of money off of conspiracy theories,” West said. “There is a lot of engagement on conspiracy theories. Alex Jones is just one example among many.
The majority of survey respondents said they consider the voting and election news and information they regularly associate with and share online to be at least half-true.
In the poll, 40% rated the news as half false and half true, and a further 20% described the news as mostly or completely false.
West said it could be concerning that people expect misinformation in their news environments — although it may be good for people to be skeptical and question the information they see.
West also said he was also surprised at how little trust people had in the accuracy of information shared through local social media groups, like Nextdoor or neighborhood Facebook groups.
While the poll showed that only 35% get information from a local social media group, 42% of those people said they had moderate confidence in the accuracy and reliability of the information shared, and 32% of people said he had little confidence. The question was asked of 254 people and had a credibility interval of 7.4 percentage points.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Jevin West’s title. the West is a professor and co-founder of the Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington.