New Survey: Americans Increasingly Worried About Freedom of Speech on Internet

One In Three Say They Have Less Freedom Today To Speak Mind; Conservatives Among Most Concerned

17 Nov, 2015, 15:00 ET from Protect Internet Freedom (PIF)

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As tensions rise across college campuses, Americans are increasingly worried about freedom of speech on the Internet and feel that things will only get worse in the future, according to results from a new Morning Consult survey released today by Protect Internet Freedom (PIF).  The national survey revealed that one in 3 (34%) respondents say they have less freedom to speak their mind on the Internet today compared with a few years ago, and only one in 10 (12%) say they have more freedom to speak their mind.  Conservatives are more likely to say they have less freedom today.  When asked to look ahead a few years, about half (45%) of adults think they will have less freedom to speak their minds.

"These results aren't surprising given the beating that the First Amendment has taken in recent weeks," said PIF Public Advocate Jerri Ann Henry.  "Oddly, most efforts to chill free speech are happening on university campuses that were once considered the traditional epicenter of free speech, dissenting viewpoints and peaceful protest.  Today's activism has been replaced with "safe spaces," reporters being muscled out of public places and online censorship that's frighteningly similar to that of authoritarian regimes."

Henry pointed to last week's public address by Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai who, referring to Chairman Wheeler's statement that the new Net Neutrality rules give the government the power to "throw the flag if it saw behavior that it didn't like," reiterated his concerns that we are seeing a movement to allow government regulation of Internet content.  He cited websites like Drudge Report, saying the FCC could conceivably say that it should be regulated because of its "disproportionate effect on political discourse."

PIF also highlighted several examples of encroachments to online freedom of speech in a recent blog post, including an open mic capturing Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Germany's President Angela Merkel discussing how Facebook could ban user posts critical of Merkel's immigration policy; national online Latino organization Presente.org, urging the U.S. Attorney General to arrest a Presidential candidate (Trump) for his tone when talking about illegal immigration; a coalition of social advocacy groups petitioning the Department of Education to ban popular social media apps from public campuses for fear user comments create an "unsafe space" for college students; and the U.S. Federal Elections Commission seeking to regulate online political speech.

"Ironically, many of those now calling for censorship are the same advocates who empowered the federal government to regulate the Internet in order to protect its "free and open" nature," Henry said.  "In reality, these social justice warriors are using the government as their bodyguard against those who don't support their online agenda.  They aren't about keeping the Internet open, they aren't about Internet freedom and they certainly aren't about protecting free speech."

The Morning Consult survey of 1,974 registered voters was conducted November 5-8.

Jerri Ann Henry is available for interview. Contact Protect Internet Freedom at info@protectinternetfreedom.com.

Protect Internet Freedom is a grassroots, nonprofit organization of 1.6 million supporters dedicated to defending a truly free and open Internet, and preserving it as a tool for democratic distribution of information, societal change, and technological innovation.

 

SOURCE Protect Internet Freedom (PIF)