Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Social Media and Free Speech

 By Melissa Maxwell

Have you ever read something online and asked yourself, “Why would someone ever say something like that?” Have you ever seen a post that is obviously filled with disinformation but people are believing it? Have you ever seen or read things online that you really did not want to see? Free speech is and has been a big issue on social platforms. The misinformation that is spewed online can mislead people, leaving them in the dark about what is really going on. There are people saying and posting things they should not say online. Do we really want to be on platforms that condone hatred and violence? I believe that moderators should be doing a better job at removing disinformation and extremism from their platforms because it will lead to bias and untruth on them.

People believe that the moderators on these social platforms are not doing enough to keep disinformation from the public. According to Andrew McLaughlin, “Failing to tackle that problem means ceding the terrain to fraudsters, fake-news pushers, and other kinds of propagandists, who easily gain the upper hand” (“Supporters Argue”). There is more fake-news on social media than ever before, which goes to say that the people are right, the moderators are not doing enough. Too often, social media companies have chosen profit over responsibility, which ends up leaving the public uniformed and confused.

Opposers argue that it is a violation of free speech for private companies to moderate content. Moderating content is allowed because it is a company enforcing its own rules against false or offensive speech. The people that believe it is a violation are the ones who are either spreading or supporting fake-news. Professor Anthony DiMaggio explains that "We have long lived in a post-truth society, with political propaganda dominating the 'mainstream' news media, and contributing to disinformation campaigns aimed at manipulating public opinion," (¨Opponents Argue¨). There is so much fake-news and untruthfulness in the media that people do not know what is real and what is not. One of the most popular social media apps, Facebook, has become one of the most affected when it comes to fake-news. "As Facebook has become the favorite online home for Americans, it has also become host to a wide array of hyperpartisan content machines that publish mountains of misleading or outright fabricated stories that are explicitly designed to be widely shared among people who are more inclined to believe them," (Olheiser, ¨Supporters Argue¨). Facebook is like the new Ccolosseum, some of the people on it are constantly fighting and arguing about their rights and views. Users can be on this app for hours on end, so they are always exposed to seeing these types of things within the app.

Some users of social media apps have tried to refrain from using them as often, or at all. A volunteer from a study done in 2013 said "[I] felt alone and cut off from the world," (“Social Media”). People that try to stay away from the disinformation on social media, also end up staying away from the truth. Users on apps have the tendency to believe things they read and see online because they trust the platforms that they are on, and we've seen it a million times. Senator Elizabeth Warren said "[T]he same technological changes that have allowed people to more easily find each other and unite have also made it easier to incite hatred and violence," (“Supporters Argue''). Social media is supposed to connect people with friends, loved ones, and the truth. There may not be a way to completely remove fake-news and misinformation from the internet, but there definitely is a better way of moderating it.

I believe that moderating what people say and post on social media is beneficial because it keeps lies from spreading to the majority of the public. Not censoring things people post can cause the users that trust the platforms they are on to believe things that are untrue. I believe that censoring and moderating fake-news and misinformation is a violation of free speech. Although people have the freedom to say and do whatever they want, I do believe that there is a time and place where things should be said. Spreading fake-news online doesn’t help. The public is already unaware about things happening in the world, and a lot of people believe the things they see and read online. There isn’t a way to fully censor and moderate every source of fake-news, but I believe that moderators of social media platforms can and should do a better job.

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