Divergent Global Views on Social Media, Free Speech, and Platform Regulation: Findings from the United Kingdom, South Korea, Mexico, and the United States

43 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2022 Last revised: 20 Jun 2022

See all articles by John Wihbey

John Wihbey

Northeastern University

Myojung Chung

Northeastern University - College of Arts, Media, and Design

Mike Peacey

University of Bristol

Garrett Morrow

Northeastern University Ethics Institute; Northeastern University - College of Social Sciences and Humanities

Yushu Tian

Northeastern University

Lauren Vitacco

Northeastern University

Daniela Rincon Reyes

Northeastern University

Melissa Clavijo

Northeastern University

Date Written: January 3, 2022

Abstract

Citizens and policymakers in many countries are voicing frustration with social media platform companies, which are, increasingly, host to much of the world’s public discourse. Many societies have considered regulation to address issues such as misinformation and hate speech. However, there is relatively little data on how countries compare precisely in terms of public attitudes toward social media regulation. This report provides an overview of public opinion across four diverse democracies – the United Kingdom, South Korea, Mexico, and the United States – furnishing comparative perspectives on issues such as online censorship, free speech, and social media regulation. We gathered nationally representative samples of 1,758 (South Korea), 1,415 (U.S.), 1,435 (U.K.), and 784 (Mexico) adults in the respective countries. Across multiple measures, respondents from the United States and Mexico are, on the face of it, more supportive of freedoms of expression than respondents from the United Kingdom and South Korea. Additionally, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Mexico are more supportive of stricter content moderation than the United States, particularly if the content causes harm or distress for others. The data add to our understanding of the global dynamics of content moderation policy and speak to civil society efforts, such as the Santa Clara Principles, to articulate standards for companies that are fair to users and their communities. The findings underscore how different democracies may have varying needs and translate and apply their values in nuanced ways.

Keywords: social media, content moderation, communications policy, digital platforms, law and technology, South Korea, Mexico, United Kingdom, international law

Suggested Citation

Wihbey, John and Chung, Myojung and Peacey, Mike and Morrow, Garrett and Tian, Yushu and Vitacco, Lauren and Rincon Reyes, Daniela and Clavijo, Melissa, Divergent Global Views on Social Media, Free Speech, and Platform Regulation: Findings from the United Kingdom, South Korea, Mexico, and the United States (January 3, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3999454 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3999454

John Wihbey

Northeastern University ( email )

School of Journalism; Ethics Institute
School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs
Boston, MA Massachusetts 02115
United States

Myojung Chung

Northeastern University - College of Arts, Media, and Design ( email )

360 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Mike Peacey

University of Bristol ( email )

University of Bristol,
Senate House, Tyndall Avenue
Bristol, Avon BS8 ITH
United Kingdom

Garrett Morrow (Contact Author)

Northeastern University Ethics Institute ( email )

220 B RP
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Northeastern University - College of Social Sciences and Humanities ( email )

360 Huntington Ave,
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Yushu Tian

Northeastern University ( email )

220 B RP
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Lauren Vitacco

Northeastern University ( email )

220 B RP
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Daniela Rincon Reyes

Northeastern University ( email )

220 B RP
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Melissa Clavijo

Northeastern University ( email )

220 B RP
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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