False News and Diversity

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Listen to politicians long enough, and you will likely hear them use the term “fake news.” In some cases, the term is used to describe information with which they simply do not agree. In other cases, though, fake news is actually false information spread by others as way to confuse or spread misleading information.

Many express concern with false information spread online, and as a result, Congress has considered steps to curtail the spread of such information. However, government regulation of information may conflict with one’s belief that people should be free to access and publish information as they see fit.

Recently, the PEW research center examined this topic and explored how demographics influenced people’s responses. Most Americans oppose the idea of the government restricting the spread of false information. They are, however, more supportive of tech companies taking such steps.

Some personal characteristics influenced these beliefs. In a rarity, Democrats and Republics generally agreed on something: government should not restrict information. However, Democrats were more supportive of tech companies doing so.

Age was also important, as older individuals were more supportive of intervention by the government and by tech companies than were their younger counterparts. Education also influenced the patterns. As people’s educational attainment increased, so too did their opposition to any restrictions on information flow. Finally, women favored restrictions by government and tech companies more than men did.

Overall, the research shows how demographic characteristics can influence attitudes toward false information and how to curtail it. Interestingly, though people resist the idea of government impinging upon our freedoms, they are more receptive to tech companies doing so.