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There is a sharp divide between our "Political Insiders" about whether the government should step in to stop "fake news" from spreading on social media.

We're just starting to understand how Russian "troll farms" used Facebook and Twitter to spread misinformation and sow discord during the 2016 election.

Our "Political Insiders" are on decidedly opposite sides on whether there should be a law requiring social media companies to remove these "fake news" posts.

79% of Republicans say the government should not be in the business of regulating what is and what is not allowed on social media.

100% of Democrats say they would support laws to prevent "fake news" from spreading on social media and to keep foreign governments from using those platforms from influencing public opinion. This unanimity most likely stems from the belief that the social media chaos was intended to help Donald Trump during the 2016 election.

More than 2/3rds of our readers also say that they would support laws requiring social media companies to remove misleading posts that could impact public opinion.

 

Selected anonymous comments: 

I’m pretty sure that I can decipher fake news better than any bureaucrat.

And who gets to decide what is "fake news, the DNC?

Even in the digital space, the First Amendment matters.

This question even being asked is scary as hell. No, hell no.

The forced removal of some element of speech seems dicey. The owners of a social media platform could modify their terms of service and voluntarily monitor and remove "fake news" or a variety of other kinds of posts they think wrong without government mandate.

About time. But there’s got to be strong oversight to avoid 1st Amendment conflicts.

The fake news operation employed by the Russians during the 2016 was a form of unconventional warfare. While ideally our people would be educated enough to see through the fake articles, they didn’t and they won’t. Lawmakers and social media companies should do what’s necessary to protect the vulnerable.

Who gets to decide what's real and what's fake? Look at how fast CNN attacked Donna Brazille and her book because it doesn't fit their narrative. Frankly, everything on MSNBC is fake or false news, but only Nazis censor things and silence free speech.

More laws?? The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other laws are sufficient if enforced effectively and if the Justice Department has the political will to do so. We should be focused on cleaning up the swamp first. And ... we don't seem to have the political will to do so.

We have to do something to mitigate the misinformation.

If they know it's false, they should remove it.

Fake news is a serious, detrimental problem but ignoring the First Amendment and turning the issue over to government regulation will only make things worse. Don't mess with the freedom of speech and the press.

Nothing is worse than having government censoring communications.

A better approach is flag the posts with a warning that it might be fake news. There is too much disagreement on what is "fake news" and removal would give social media companies too much power to censor speech that they disagree with.

Historically, official proscription of speech has been an existential exercise for citizens.

I generally don't support legislating issues that will be handled by the free market. It is in the best interest of the various social media platforms to strengthen their policies to weed out misleading information. However, I find it more remarkable that the public is unwilling to take any responsibility to become savvier as consumers of media. Just because you read it on the internet does not mean you can believe it without applying some common sense and critical thinking.

There is absolute rubbish in social media (I'm a snob...I don't have a Facebook etc. account). Is there an actual "fake news filter" or does one have to rely on their own "crap detector" to decide what has crossed the line into brazen speculation? Can "fake news" be controlled or eliminated? That would be good. So much for "yellow journalism"...huh? How about "brown journalism"? I could use an emoji right now.

The problems, of course, include: Who decides what is fake? What are the criteria for deciding what is fake? How fast is the fake news removed? Does anyone say, "The news that was here before was fake, so we removed it? What is the remedy when "true" news is wrongly removed as fake, and how quickly is that remedy implemented?

Having laws that make it so that news sources must prove the credibility of their information will help our nation. It is not an infringement of the 1st amendment to require verification of the information. The average American researches on their own, so we must hold the sources of information more accountable.

At the least, a mechanism of marking misinformation posts unverifiable or a warning. It is a tight line between free speech and false propaganda.

Willfully allowing blatant falsehoods and foreign propaganda to influence our public discourse and elections is like providing the gun to allow someone to rob you.

Who would decide what was fake, and what would keep them from exercising that power to advance their own agenda?

This proposal is absolutely a slippery-slope to Big Brother media.