72% of Americans Say Facebook and Twitter Actively Censor Political Views

June 28, 2018, 11:14 PM UTC
A man holds a smart phone with the icons for the social networking apps Facebook, Instagram and Twitter seen on the screen on March 23, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV
Kirill Kudryavtsev—AFP/Getty Images

Fake news, Russian trolls, and other daily hazards of social media are not only affecting how many Americans have come to view the world, they seem to be affecting how they view social media itself.

A Pew Research survey released Thursday found that 72% of Americans believe that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter actively censor political views that they find objectionable. Fully 85% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents thought that the platforms intentionally censored political viewpoints, while 62% of Democrat and Democrat-leaning independents believed so.

Republicans were also more likely to say that major technology companies as a whole support the views of liberals over conservatives, with 64% agreeing with that statement. Only 16% of Democrats felt that tech companies supported conservative views more, while 53% of them said that both liberal and conservative views are supported equally.

“Republicans tend to be less trusting and more skeptical of public entities and large institutions, whether it concerns technology companies, the news media or higher education,” Aaron Smith, an author of the study, said in an interview with Bloomberg. “This is very much in line with attitudes of conservative Americans that we’ve seen over the last couple years.”

Only 28% of all Americans surveyed said they trusted big tech companies to do what is right most or all of the time, while 58% believe they do what’s right some of the time, and 14% said they hardly ever do the right thing.

Facebook and Twitter have been sensitive to charges leveled by conservatives about liberal bias on their platforms, holding a secret meeting recently with Trump aides and Republican leaders to hear their concerns. Facebook recently shut down its trending-news feature that some conservatives had cited to allege a liberal bias.

Early this month, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wrote in a note to employees, “It’s no secret that we are largely left-leaning, and we all have biases.” When Sen. Ted Cruz asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the issue during his recent Congressional testimony, he replied, “This is actually a concern that I have and that I try to root out in the company, making sure that we do not have any bias in the work that we do.”

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed felt that major technology companies often fail to anticipate how their products and services will affect society. However, 74% of respondents said that, all in all, the offerings of tech companies had a more positive than negative impact on their own personal lives.

Pew surveyed nearly 4,600 U.S. adults between late May and early June for the study.