Most Americans say the U.S. government and technology companies should each take steps to restrict false information and extremely violent content online. However, there is more support for tech companies moderating these types of content than for the federal government doing so, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
Support for both technology companies and the government taking steps to restrict false information online has grown in recent years. For example, the share of U.S. adults who say the federal government should restrict false information has risen from 39% in 2018 to 55% in 2023.
This increase in support comes amid public debates about online content regulation and court cases that look at how tech companies moderate content on their platforms.
Additionally, tech companies have begun to remove some content restrictions that they had imposed in response to misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 election.
That said, the amount that people have heard about the debates surrounding the role government should play in regulating major technology companies has decreased in the past two years. In 2021, 51% of U.S. adults said they had heard at least a fair amount about this topic, compared with 39% today.
- 65% of Americans support tech companies moderating false information online and 55% support the U.S. government taking these steps. These shares have increased since 2018.
- Americans are even more supportive of tech companies (71%) and the U.S. government (60%) restricting extremely violent content online.
- Democrats are more supportive than Republicans of tech companies and the U.S. government restricting extremely violent content and false information online. The partisan gap in support for restricting false information has grown substantially since 2018.
To examine Americans’ attitudes toward restricting false information and extremely violent content online, Pew Research Center surveyed 5,115 U.S. adults from June 5 to June 11, 2023. Everyone who completed the survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way, nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Views toward moderating false information online
Just over half of Americans (55%) support the U.S. government taking steps to restrict false information online, even if it limits people from freely publishing or accessing information.
U.S. adults are less likely to say that freedom of information should be protected even if it means false information can be published (42%).
Support for government intervention has steadily risen since the first time we asked this question in 2018. In fact, the balance of opinion has tilted: Five years ago, Americans were more inclined to prioritize freedom of information over restricting false information (58% vs. 39%).
In addition, the share of U.S. adults who say that tech companies should take steps to restrict false information online has increased from 56% in 2018 to 65% in 2023.
Attitudes on moderating extremely violent content online
This was the first time we asked about the American public’s views of moderating extremely violent content online. We found that Americans are somewhat more likely to favor restricting this type of content than false information.
About seven-in-ten Americans (71%) believe that tech companies should restrict violent content online, and 60% say that the government should do so.
Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are much more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to support the U.S. government taking steps to restrict false information online (70% vs. 39%).
There was virtually no difference between the parties in 2018, but the share of Democrats who support government intervention has grown from 40% in 2018 to 70% in 2023, while the share of Republicans who hold this view hasn’t changed much.
There is a similar gap between the shares of Democrats and Republicans who say technology companies should restrict false information online.
A large majority of Democrats and Democratic leaners (81%) support technology companies taking such steps, while about half of Republicans (48%) say the same. The share of Democrats who support technology companies taking these steps has also increased steadily since 2018.
These partisan gaps persist when it comes to restricting extremely violent content online. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say that the U.S. government (71% vs. 48%, respectively) and tech companies (83% vs. 61%) should take steps to restrict violent content online even if it limits freedom of information.
U.S. adults ages 50 and older are more likely than younger adults to say that both technology companies (68% vs. 62%) and the U.S. government (58% vs. 52%) should take steps to restrict false information online.
However, the shares of younger adults who say they support tech companies and the government restricting false information online have increased substantially since 2018 (by 14 and 19 percentage points, respectively).
There are similar divides when it comes to restricting violent content online.
Three-quarters of Americans ages 50 and older support tech companies restricting violent content online, and 66% support the U.S. government doing so. This compares with 69% and 54%, respectively, among younger adults.