A good majority of U.S. Internet users have a rather limited understanding of net neutrality and what it means, according to a new survey on what today's U.S. users know regarding the Internet.
Only 61 percent of those polled responded correctly to a multiple-choice question identifying net neutrality as the equal treatment of online content by Internet service providers.
"It is a fairly technical issue, so the fact that many people are at least aware of the terms of the debate could be interpreted as fairly significant evidence of how much this has penetrated the popular discussion," said Aaron Smith, senior researcher at Pew's Internet Project.
The Pew Research Center survey polled 1,066 adult American Internet users this past September.
The question regarding privacy policies shows American knowledge of privacy online has not progressed in over a decade. The University of Pennsylvania asked the same question in a survey in 2003, with the numbers being almost identical. This is surprising considering the number of hacks, data breaches and leaks that have taken place since then.
Despite the questions regarding net neutrality and privacy policies, over 80 percent of respondents were able to correctly identify Bill Gates from a photo. They were also able to pinpoint Twitter as the service where hashtags are most widely used, despite the fact most respondents didn't use the social networking website.
While Americans have somewhat improved in their knowledge of the Internet, there are some gaps. For example, 75 percent think the "Internet" and the "World Wide Web" mean the same thing. The World Wide Web is the system that we use to access the Internet, which is a series of networks. Of those polled, 35 percent of respondents thought that a photo of Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, was actually Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, despite the fact the two women look nothing alike.
For those interested in seeing where they sit on the scale of Internet knowledge, the survey can be taken here.