June 23, 2008
Nearly half of Americans (49%) believe that the federal government should regulate the Internet the same way it does radio and television, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national survey.
Thirty-five percent (35%) disagree, and 16% are undecided.
Americans also believe overwhelmingly — 73% yes to 13% no — that it should be a crime to harass someone on the Internet.
The findings come as a Missouri woman faces an unprecedented federal prosecution for allegedly setting up an account for a fictitious 16-year-old on an online social networking site to harass the 13-year-old daughter of a neighbor. The girl, Megan Meier, ultimately committed suicide after being viciously rejected by the made-up boy.
Lori Drew, the woman in question, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges of conspiracy and accessing a protected computer to obtain information. She allegedly created the MySpace account after her daughter had a falling out with Meier.
Seventy-one percent (71%) have some awareness of the Drew case, with only 25% saying they know nothing about it at all. Women (79%) more than men
(67%) think Internet harassment should be a crime. Age is also a factor, with support for criminalizing such behavior higher the older the respondent.
Women also feel much more strongly about federal regulation of the Internet, with 55% in favor, 25% opposed and 20% undecided. Men reject federal regulation by a small margin – 46% to 42% — with 12% unsure.
One out of four Americans (26%) say they have a social networking account with a site such as MySpace and Facebook, but 69% say they do not. Not surprisingly younger people are more likely to have such an account: 65% of men and 45% of women under 40 say they network socially this way, as opposed to only 24% of men and 15% of women who are 40 and older.
Nearly one out of two adults (48%) say they use the Internet every day or almost every day, but 25% say they rarely, if ever, use it. Income is clearly a factor, with the likelihood of Internet usage rising with the level of the respondent’s annual earnings.
Race also is a factor, with 53% of whites saying they use the Internet every day or nearly every day, as opposed to only 28% of blacks. Twenty-one percent (21%) of whites and 39% of blacks say they rarely or never use the Internet.
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