Democrats and Republicans split over social media content moderation

Most Americans think social media companies should remove offensive content, according to a study.

Queenie Wong Former Senior Writer
Queenie Wong was a senior writer for CNET News, focusing on social media companies including Facebook's parent company Meta, Twitter and TikTok. Before joining CNET, she worked for The Mercury News in San Jose and the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. A native of Southern California, she took her first journalism class in middle school.
Expertise I've been writing about social media since 2015 but have previously covered politics, crime and education. I also have a degree in studio art. Credentials
  • 2022 Eddie award for consumer analysis
Queenie Wong
2 min read
Popular Mobile Device Applications

Twitter and Facebook applications are seen grouped in a Social Media folder on an iPhone. 

Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter can't please everyone when they decide what content to leave up or pull down. It turns out, Democrats and Republicans don't always see eye to eye on content moderation. 

Pew Research Center

A study released by the Pew Research Center on Wednesday showed that about 77 percent of Democrats think social media companies "have a responsibility to remove offensive content from their platforms." By comparison, about 52 percent of Republicans had the same view.

The findings illustrate some of the challenges social media companies are facing as they try to improve how they police content on their sites. Facebook, for example, is creating an independent board that will handle appeals for content decisions. 

Social networks have faced allegations that they're censoring conservative speech, which the companies have repeatedly denied. At the same time, they're also under pressure to do more to combat hate speech, violence and other content that violates their rules. More recently, Facebook faced criticism after the company decided to not remove a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that made it seem like the California Democrat was slurring her words. Instead, the company displayed related articles from fact-checkers debunking the video. 

Overall, 66 percent of Americans say social media companies have a responsibility to pull down offensive content. But only 31 percent of Americans have at least a fair amount of confidence in social media companies to decide what content to pull down. 

A higher percentage of women, African-Americans and older adults also think social media companies have a responsibility to remove offensive content. 

The Pew Research Center surveyed more than 10,000 US adults between April 29 and May 13. The survey doesn't define what's considered offensive content and most people don't agree what's considered racist and sexist language, the study showed.