Partisan conflict over content moderation is more than disagreement about facts

89 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2023 Last revised: 19 Jul 2023

See all articles by Ruth E. Appel

Ruth E. Appel

Stanford University

Jennifer Pan

Stanford University

Margaret E. Roberts

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - 21st Century China Center

Date Written: July 18, 2023

Abstract

Social media companies have come under increasing pressure to remove misinformation from their platforms, but partisan disagreements over what should be removed have stymied efforts to deal with misinformation in the US. Current explanations for these disagreements center on the “fact gap”—differences in perceptions about what is misinformation. We argue that partisan differences could also be due to “party promotion”—a desire to leave misinformation online that promotes one’s own party—or a “preference gap”—differences in internalized preferences about whether misinformation should be removed. Through an experiment where respondents are shown false headlines aligned with their own or the opposing party, we find some evidence of party promotion among Democrats and strong evidence of a preference gap between Democrats and Republicans. Even when Republicans agree that content is false, they are half as likely as Democrats to say that the content should be removed and more than twice as likely to consider removal as censorship.

Keywords: social media, partisanship, censorship, content moderation

Suggested Citation

Appel, Ruth Elisabeth and Pan, Jennifer and Roberts, Margaret E., Partisan conflict over content moderation is more than disagreement about facts (July 18, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4331868 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4331868

Ruth Elisabeth Appel

Stanford University ( email )

Jennifer Pan (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Margaret E. Roberts

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - 21st Century China Center ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive #0519
La Jolla, CA 92093-0519
United States

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