Have the nation’s leading tech companies been doing a good job handling violent threats, hate speech and conspiracy theories after the attack on the U.S. Capitol?
Depends on who you ask.
More than a third – 37% – of Americans say they approve of how the companies are cracking down on potentially harmful or dangerous content, with 28% saying they have gone too far and 23% saying they haven’t gone far enough, according to a new survey from The Harris Poll shared exclusively with USA TODAY.
“Most Americans saw the actions taken by Big Tech in recent weeks as necessary, but they’re still deeply skeptical of the power and influence these companies have,” John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll, said in an emailed statement.
Opinions largely split along party lines, with 51% of Democrats saying tech companies were doing a good job, compared with 25% of Republicans.
Generations also diverged in the survey of 1,960 U.S. adults between Jan. 15 and Jan. 17.
Some 41% of Gen Z and Millennials and 43% of Gen Xers say social media companies are doing a good job versus 25% of Boomers and 36% of seniors. Older Americans were more likely to say the companies have gone too far, 35% of Boomers versus 22% of Gen Z and Millennials.
The Harris Poll tapped the pulse of a nation as concerns grow over the unprecedented power held by a small number of megacompanies, which are largely unaccountable when it comes to how they moderate content on their platforms.
On the right, these companies are frequently accused of politically motivated biasand censorship. On the left, they’re criticized for doing too little to remove harmful content, particularly content targeting protected groups.
In the Harris poll, some 32% of those surveyed voiced this opinion: “We are entering a period where Big Tech has too much power to censor voices they do not like.”
Here’s how the numbers break down for specific actions taken by tech companies since Jan. 6:
- 55% of Americans say it was necessary for Google and Apple to remove Parler from their app stores.
- 57% of Americans say it was necessary for Amazon to remove merchandise from its store promoting conspiracy theories linked to the Capitol Building riots.
- 49% of Americans say it was necessary for Shopify to take down President Donald Trump’s campaign online store.
- 55% of Americans say it was necessary for Twitter to remove over 70,000 accounts that shared conspiracy theories linked to the Capitol riots.