Despite that it’s commonly believed that the Internet facilitates free speech, a new study indicates that on social media people tend to not speak out if they believe that their views are unpopular or if they perceive that they may be negatively criticized for expressing their heart-felt opinions. The authors explain that it’s long been known that people self-censor in face-to-face interactions:
A major insight into human behavior from pre-internet era studies of communication is the tendency of people not to speak up about policy issues in public—or among their family, friends, and work colleagues—when they believe their own point of view is not widely shared. This tendency is called the “spiral of silence.”
Some social media creators and supporters have hoped that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter might produce different enough discussion venues that those with minority views might feel freer to express their opinions, thus broadening public discourse and adding new perspectives to everyday discussion of political issues.