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Free Speech on Social Media Doesn’t Mean the Same Thing Around the World

10/13/21 - BOSTON, MA. - Stock photo of the Facebook App on Wednesday Oct. 13, 2021. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Facebook, Google, Instagram, and other social media giants are based in the United States, where they have faced relatively little government oversight. But their reach extends around the world, influencing a wide spectrum of audiences in a variety of ways.

A Northeastern survey of four diverse democracies found that people in other countries differ from Americans when it comes to opinions as to how social media companies should be regulated, with respondents in the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Mexico favoring stricter content moderation than people in the U.S.—especially in cases that cause harm or distress.

Governments around the world have debated regulations to curb the misinformation and hate speech that have proliferated  on social media. The study, led by Northeastern journalism faculty members John Wihbey and Myojung Chung, compared public opinion across the four nations on issues of online censorship, free speech, and social-media regulation.

The study, a joint paper between the College of Arts, Media and Design and the Ethics Institute, was also co-authored by Northeastern graduate students Garrett Morrow, Yushu Tian, Lauren Vitacco, Daniela Rincon Reyes, and Melissa Clavijo.

Read more here.

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