Robert Winterton
Jul 29 · 4 min read

The 2020 election will be tight and every vote counts. So it’s surprising to see Democratic candidates making calls to regulate free speech and online platforms — policy proposals that Americans overwhelmingly oppose, and policies that could cost Democrats the White House.

This year some Democrats are calling to make it harder for online services to host our comments and pictures. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has even gone so far as to say that America’s most successful tech companies should be broken up.

Candidates should instead listen to the public when making such proclamations as numerous polls shows that anti-tech policies don’t resonate with Americans.

Consider new polling from RealClear Opinion Research, commissioned by NetChoice. This polling shows that the American public want bad actors — not the platforms they operate on — to be held responsible for user-generated content:

  • 63 percent of Americans say that users who post illegal content should be held liable, while only 23 percent say the platforms lawbreakers use should be.
  • When asked who should be held responsible for comments posted online, 73 percent of Americans said the user who posted the comment, while only 27 percent said the platform where the comment was posted.
  • Only 21 percent of Americans said they trust government to keep online practices ethical and fair. 37 percent said businesses themselves, and 41 percent said consumers.

This polling adds to previous polling by Zogby Analytics and commissioned by NetChoice that showed consumers are skeptical that the government should further regulate online platforms at all.

No tech issues were listed in the top 10, and only one issue somewhat related to tech made it onto the list at all — Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren has said she would break up Facebook, Google, and Amazon as President, despite there being any substantial evidence that the public would support such a move. But the Zogby poll shows that:

  • Only 5 percent of Americans said that the government should most focus its antitrust enforcement on the tech sector.
  • Only 10 percent of Americans support government preventing successful online services like Facebook and Google from acquiring startups.
  • 80 percent of Americans don’t believe consumers would most benefit from breaking up tech.

These polls should send a warning shot to Washington and to presidential candidates looking to gain support during Tuesday and Wednesday’s Democratic primary debates in Detroit.

Rather than focus on attacking online platforms, candidates looking to gain traction in this busy primary should focus on issues that Democrats care about.

Research by Pew shows that the top priorities for Democrats this election are healthcare, education, the environment, medicare, and helping the poor and needy.

Additionally, a Gallup poll from last year shows that the top three priorities of Democrat voters are healthcare, the economy, and immigration.

No tech issues were listed in the top 10, and only one issue somewhat related to tech made it onto the list at all — Russian interference in the 2016 election.

If American voters do not support government intervention in tech, why does the topic get heavy media attention?

As services that we use every day, mistakes made by online platforms are often of particular interest to Americans who are rightly interested in deciding which online platforms they trust and want to use. This, however, does not mean that they wish to see the government intervene.

As a result, while articles bemoaning the tech industry may earn clicks, there’s little to show that policies seeking to regulate the tech industry will earn candidates votes come primary season.

While candidates prepare to showcase what they would do if they earn the presidency, they should stick to policies that will invigorate their base and attract undecided voters. Repeated polling by several organizations show that tech regulation is not that policy and it could cost them.

NetChoice

The home on Medium for all things NetChoice. Here, we publish opinion pieces on issues that we cover — fighting to break down barriers to e-commerce.

Robert Winterton

Written by

Dir. of Comms @NetChoice. Fmr @Techfreedom comms guy. Opinions not necessarily those of NetChoice.

NetChoice

NetChoice

The home on Medium for all things NetChoice. Here, we publish opinion pieces on issues that we cover — fighting to break down barriers to e-commerce.

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