Do Half Of Americans Really Want The Gov't To Regulate The Internet?
from the you-can-prove-anything-with-surveys dept
Before people act surprised about this, take a step back and recognize that if you did the same study in the US, asking if the government should be protecting children from "bad stuff" online, many Americans would naturally say yes.And, now it looks like a "public opinion" firm is proving that correct, leading to the publicity-generating headline suggesting that half of all Americans support regulating content online the same way content is regulated on TV or radio -- with 73% of all people saying that it should be illegal to be a jerk online. But is that really representative of what people think? Not really. At least the firm also reveals the actual questions -- from which it's easy to see why the answers came out as they did.
The survey starts out talking about the infamous Megan Meier-Lori Drew case, providing very little of the actual context of what happened, but instead suggesting that Drew sent cruel messages to a young girl to make her commit suicide. That's not accurate at all, according to most reports. While Lori Drew did set up the fake MySpace page, she did it to keep tabs on what Meier was saying about her daughter, not to harass her. And, the harassing "message" was sent by another young girl who thought it was a good way to get Megan to not want to speak to the fake profile again -- rather than to push her to commit suicide. But, none of that context is explained. Instead, survey takers are told that Drew set up a fake MySpace page with which to harass a girl, which resulted in the girl's suicide. They're then asked if they think that should be a crime -- to which many people obviously respond yes.
Immediately following this, they ask people if the FCC should regulate content on the internet, like it does on TV and radio. And, of course, since people are now in the mindset of thinking just how awful some content can be online, they're much more prone to say yes. In other words, the results are totally bogus. If the opinion firm, instead, went in the other direction and opened with questions about internet censorship, and spoke about how aggressive regulation of content online was preventing people from getting all sorts of information that could be useful to them, and then asked how they felt about FCC regulation of online content, I'd imagine a lot fewer would think it was okay. And, just for contrast's sake, we can point to another study from a few years ago that asked people about regulating content on TV. In that study over 90% said they didn't think content should be regulated on TV. That study is obviously questionable too, but if you combine both, you'd have 90% of people saying that TV shouldn't be regulated, but 50% saying that internet content should be. Something doesn't add up.