Media

Poll: Majority believe Alex Jones should be banned from social media platforms

A majority of voters think social media companies should ban Infowars founder Alex Jones from their platforms, according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll released exclusively to The Hill.

The poll showed 61 percent of registered voters surveyed believed Jones, who spreads unfounded conspiracy theories through his radio show Infowars, should be banned from the sites of tech companies, while 39 percent disagree.

Jones, who has claimed that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were perpetrated by the government and that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, was banned from Facebook for 30 days and from Twitter for a week for violating the company's guidelines. Other social media companies have also followed suit.

However, some conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have objected, saying it violated Jones's First Amendment rights. Meanwhile, Republicans including President Trump have accused social media companies of censoring conservative voices.

Sixty-four percent of those polled said platforms like Facebook and Twitter should be held legally liable for the content that's published on their sites. Websites currently have broad legal protections related to what their users post, though some lawmakers advocate cutting into that immunity.

Voters are slightly less sure about whether tech companies should be able to take down or censor content.

When asked if internet users should be allowed to freely access all internet content or if some things should be censored, 51 percent favored censorship while 49 percent said all content should be accessible.

"Most Americans believe that big tech companies should censor some content but they believe such censorship should be limited to the standards of the First Amendment and community decency standards," said Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll co-director Mark Penn.

 

"They believe Alex Jones should have had only material related to false conspiracies removed, not wholesale removal of all his material," he added.

 

"But if tech companies continue to act like and be seen as media companies then most of the public thinks they should be held accountable for all of the material they carry, which would be a sea change in liability for these companies," he also noted.

When asked about specific companies, 65 percent of those polled said they believed Facebook was neutral, while 56 percent thought that was the case with Twitter and 55 percent with Google and YouTube. Meanwhile, 50 percent thought of Instagram as neutral.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll online poll consisted of surveys of 1,330 registered voters conducted Aug. 22-23. The partisan breakdown is 37 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican, 29 percent independent and 2 percent other.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard/Harris Poll throughout 2018.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.

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