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Majority Of Dems, Republicans Would Rather Internet Be ‘Safe’ Than ‘Free’

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor

Republicans are almost just as likely as Democrats to say it is more important for people to feel safe on the internet than having the ability to express themselves freely, according to a Pew Research Center poll published Monday.

In fact, both a majority of respondents more closely identifying with one of the political parties (55 percent of Democrats, 52 percent of Republicans) said the feeling of online safety is more vital than freedom of speech.

“It is more important for people to…” Pew asked “Be able to speak their minds freely online” or “Feel welcome and safe online.” Ironically, the choice of feeling “welcome and safe online” contradicts itself relative to the other option, since allowing anyone to express themselves on the internet seems to be an inherently more welcoming sentiment.

Nevertheless, a key distinction is how Republicans Democrats want to create such an environment where a sense of “safety” is a higher priority than allowing all mindsets and opinions to be conveyed on the internet.

Majorities in both political parties agree that websites have a responsibility to intervene when harassment transpires on their platforms. But Republicans, 19 percent, are somewhat more likely than Democrats, 12 percent, to say digital platforms should not be legally liable for potentially abusive content users post or share. (The Daily Caller News Foundation spoke to several lawyers and legal experts who say laws on the books, like Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and the First Amendment, protect online platforms from any official culpability pertaining to users’ conduct). (RELATED: Americans Split On If Police Should Be Able To Force You To Unlock Your Phones)

Anther interesting result — which seems to dispute the findings that people of both political affiliations almost equally care more about feeling safe online — is the disparity between how often subjectively disagreeable and derogatory material online is taken too seriously. Sixty-three percent of Republicans say that offensive content on the internet is treated with an excess of seriousness, while 50 percent of Democrats said the same, according to the Pew Research Center. Forty-eight percent and 36 percent of Democrats and Republicans, respectively, said that offensive content was not taken seriously enough and often carelessly excused.

Pew Research Center obtained their data by surveying 4,248 U.S. adults between Jan. 9 to 23. People who technically classify as Independents and nonpartisans were counted as a Republican or Democrat based off their own stated political leanings.

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