Most in new poll say social media platforms have obligation to curtail hate speech

Most in new poll say social media platforms have obligation to curtail hate speech

A majority of Americans believe social media companies have an obligation to limit hate speech on their platforms, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The USA Today-Suffolk University survey found that 52 percent of respondents said social media platforms should limit hateful or inaccurate posts, while 39 percent said they should not.

Pollsters found stark differences between demographic groups, with male respondents supporting a more open forum by 11 points and female respondents wanting content moderation by 38 points. Those who identify as liberal and moderate overwhelmingly support restricting hate speech, while those who identify as conservative oppose it by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

Almost three-quarters of all respondents said they were concerned about increasing hate speech, with almost half saying they were “very concerned”. More Democrats said they were concerned than Republicans, but a majority of all races, regional backgrounds, age groups and partisan groups said they were concerned about an increase in hatred toward Black and Jewish people.

The poll results come as Twitter CEO Elon Musk has emphasized free speech on the platform in the month and a half since his purchase of the company was completed.

Musk, who has called himself an “absolutist” of free speech, on Monday disbanded Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, which was created in 2016 to address issues on the platform such as hate speech and child exploitation. In an email sent to board members, Twitter said it was “reevaluating how best to bring external insights.”

Hate speech reportedly increased on Twitter in the first week after Musk took over the company.

The USA Today poll found 34 percent of respondents view Musk favorably and 42 percent view him unfavorably. About 20 percent said they were unsure or hadn’t heard of him.

Six in 10 Republicans view Musk favorably, but only 7 percent of Democrats said the same.

Researchers also found a large difference in Musk’s favorability between those who are and are not concerned about hate speech. More than 60 percent of those who are concerned view him unfavorably, while more than 60 percent of those who are not concerned view him favorably.

The poll was conducted from 7 to 11 December among 1,000 registered voters. The margin of error was 3.1 points.

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