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What Stays Up and What Comes Down

What Stays Up and What Comes Down

Censorship and Free Speech on Major Social Media Platforms 

By Israel Gutierrez 

With the recent removal of Donald Trump from a plethora of social media and other online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, censorship on social media has come into question. 

Social media platforms are private entities, meaning they have the freedom to take any actions they want when it comes to blocking speech or specific users. However, the right to free speech is curtailed when these platforms decide what people and what types of speech are appropriate. 

What we may all be able to agree on is that there seems to be a lack of consensus on what should be allowed to fly on the internet and what shouldn’t. 

A clever play on Facebook and its censorship policies. Photo by www.forbes.com 

It isn’t just censorship, though, but the labeling of content as false or misleading that has some people concerned about the direction platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are headed. 

In this era of “fake news,” fact-checking and labeling content as “misleading” should be something we all can appreciate. Having a warning on posts to let us know if something isn’t factual can help stop the spread of rumors. However, there remains the issue of platforms abusing their censorship powers and the issue of ensuring that the fact-checkers are factual themselves. 

If something doesn’t agree with the platform’s ideology, then there is a possibility that they can try to shut it down. This is a concern for a lot of Americans. 

Research from the Pew Research Center found that republicans are more likely to think that major social media platforms are favoring liberal viewpoints over republican viewpoints. [1] This can be attributed to the assumption that CEOs of the platforms have more liberal views. 

Their research also found that partisans have different beliefs on whether these platforms should be allowed to flag any potentially inaccurate and misleading information. [2] 

Despite partisan opinions, many Americans still have doubts that these platforms will be able to correctly determine which posts to censor or label as inaccurate. [3] 

After the storming of the nation’s capital building, Facebook and other popular social media platforms responded with a Trump ban by blocking his ability to use their platforms. They claimed that Trump was inciting violence through his use of their platforms. 

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Trump banned from Twitter. Photo by www.slate.com

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted to Facebook about the situation. He talked about how, in the past, Facebook has allowed Trump to use their platform if it was in line with their policies, because they believe that everyone should have access to speech, even if it may be controversial. [4] 

This principle is one that makes a lot of sense. Allowing people to have access to free speech, even if it may be controversial, goes right along the lines of our first amendment right to free speech. It shouldn’t be the platform’s decision as to what kind of speech people have access to. 

There is still an ongoing discussion regarding where the line should be drawn when it comes to censoring speech. It is a difficult discussion because there must be a balance between impeding free speech and protecting users from potentially harmful speech being shared. 

The future of free speech and censorship on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is a bit unknown. However, I hope that there will be a reasonable balance between allowing free speech and protecting users from truly harmful speech that may be shared. 

References 

  1. Vogels, E. Perrin, A. & Anderson, M. (2020, September 18). Most Americans think social media sites censor political viewpoints. Retrieved from  http://pewrsr.ch/3atidBu.  
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Zuckerberg, M. (n.d.). Facebook.com. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from http://bit.ly/3jZ71zD
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