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USF study finds people want more regulation on social media platforms

But people and organizations who can take action aren't trusted.

TAMPA, Fla — In recent months, we’ve heard a lot of debate about censorship and regulation when it comes to social media. Some states have even passed laws aimed at so-called "de-platforming"

There are also calls for more regulation when it comes to platforms like Instagram and the influence it can have on children.

Now, the University of South Florida has released the results of a brand-new nationwide survey, asking 1,000 social media users what they think should be done, and some of the answers might surprise you.

“Hopefully policymakers are looking at this,” said USF Communications Professor Joshua Scacco.

Scacco and other researchers at USF and the Florida Center for Cybersecurity asked participants nationwide about monitoring and regulation of digital platforms.

Overall, they found a majority favor both, but are split on who should do that regulating and the potential censorship issues that could create.

“People want action. But the people who are on, and the organizations that are on the front lines of potentially taking action they don’t trust,” Scacco said.

Breaking down the numbers, a majority, 56% think social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are having a very or somewhat negative effect on America’s political climate.

Even more — 71% — agree posts or comments from political leaders and those with the most influence should be held to a higher standard.

“And that is something, I think if we change that conversation to reach, as opposed to speech,” Scacco said. “We start to come up with a potential different set of solutions to this issue.”

A majority of those questioned, 56%, also don’t think people should be allowed to say whatever they want on social media regardless of whether it’s true. In fact, 68% think social media companies should remove posts deemed false or misleading.

About 72% think dangerous continent should get a user banned.

But if the information is true, 55% of the respondents said people should be allowed to post whatever they want. Even if others find it offensive.

“We see a majority saying, you know what? Sometimes people are going to say things that are offensive, and the social platform should leave that alone,” Scacco said.

And for all the talk about political bias on social media, the poll found people have evenly split on whether platforms like Facebook and Twitter favor a particular ideology. About 51% said Facebook, and 55% say Twitter favor neither liberals nor conservatives.

Here’s a dilemma.

While 75% agree social media companies should do more to monitor the accuracy of content posted on their platforms, 62% said they don’t trust those same social media companies to fairly decide what is false, misleading or dangerous.

“So, this might call for some external forces from either the federal government or independent organizations,” Scacco saod. “Being able to step in and work with the social platforms to be able to weave together these sorts of frameworks where there could be some oversight.”

What the vast majority seem to agree upon is a need for more civility. In fact, 78% said regulation of social media is necessary to prevent organized violent acts.

Just doing that, said Scacco, “Might actually go quite a long way to stop some of the issues that are arising due to the social platforms.”