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Americans prefer the government protect free speech over censoring 'fake news,' Pew study shows

Posted: April 19, 2018 | Tags: fake news

Despite growing concern about the effects of fake news, most Americans oppose government intervention, according to a new Pew Research Center survey

Pew found that 58 percent of U.S. adults surveyed did not want the government involved in limiting made-up information, while 39 percent favored government action. However, 56 percent supported technology companies taking a role in limiting fake news.

“Most Americans fell on the side of supporting freedom,” said report co-author Elizabeth Grieco, a senior writer and editor with the non-profit research group. “It’s interesting when you juxtapose it to the second question [about technology companies]. People seem to be more open to tech companies taking steps to curb false news online.”

A 2016 Pew survey found that many Americans believed that fake new was causing confusion. That survey didn’t pose the question about freedom of speech, but did ask who should be held responsible for misinformation. Respondents put equal responsibility on the government (45 percent) and social networking sites (42 percent) to prevent made-up stories. 

Key findings: 

Republicans (60 percent) and Democrats (57 percent) oppose the government restricting false information online.  

Younger Americans are more resistant to government and tech companies limiting fake news. Some 65 percent of U.S. adults ages 18-29 and 62 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds prefer no government restrictions on online information. That compares with 53 percent of those ages 50-64 and 48 percent of those 65 and older who prefer no government restrictions on online information. 

People with less education are more supportive of government restricting misinformation online. Half of adults without a college education supported government speech restrictions when it comes to false information online, while 44 percent support freedom of access even if information isn't true. Some 64 percent of adults with some college education and 68 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher prefer that freedom of information be protected over preventing fake news.

Pew surveyed 4,734 U.S. adults between Feb. 26 and March 11. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

Read the survey here

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