To regulate or not to regulate online speech – that is the question...

To regulate or not to regulate online speech – that is the question... 

Bottom Line: If you observed the congressional testimony of Mark Zuckerberg you were likely left with two impressions... Many of the Congressional members questioning Mark really didn't grasp the material they were discussing, and they'd regulate it anyway. Last week the first polling after the testimony indicated that 80% of Facebook users were concerned about Facebook's data policy, a higher number than prior to Zuckerberg's testimony. For that reason, I opined that we'd almost certainly see congressional action to "protect us", especially in an election year. While we wait to see what comes of the data scandal the previous one is still being debated...Fake News.  

Here's the thing. We might be concerned but most of us don't think Government regulation is the answer. According to new data from the Pew Research Center: 

  • 56% say companies should self-regulate 

  • 39% think the government should take action to regulate false information online 

This study focused on fake news, but we might be able to infer that those numbers might hold for data as well. It's clear that there's still healthy skeptism when it comes to government reigning in speech – even if it's designed to mislead. In fact, 58% said that even knowingly false speech should protected online. That being said there is a bit of an interesting dynamic in-play here. I'm not sure that there's any data on free speech but I'd imagine (sincerely hope) that well north of 58% would want to continue to support free speech off-line. In other words, there likely is a significant slice of the population that might believe in free spoken speech but not online. That’s worth watching going forward.  



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