Social Media Censorship
Social Media Censorship
Social Media Censorship
Social media censorship should be extremely limited and not violate anyone’s free speech rights. I understand that some things need to be censored, if it promotes violence, death, and bullying among other vices. However, I do not believe that social media should be censored too much, as many people get their news from social media.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right provided under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Democratic societies are defined by the abilities of their people to speak freely and express their opinions. Pursuant to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone is entitled to freedom of expression and opinion, which includes freedom to impart, receive and seek ideas and information through any media. According to Mahmoud (2017), the media has always been regarded as a fourth state in democratic societies. In fact, the media is regarded as the backbone and bedrock of a democratic society. Furthermore, objectivity and truth are the main pillars of journalism and that they are deeply rooted in the profession. Media plays an important role in seeking the truth and reporting as it is, without the alteration of the story in a manner that may be beneficial to one individual or group over another. Essentially, the media should reflect diversity, enhance critical judgment, provide voice for the voiceless, and report the truth. Both freedom of speech and the media should co-exist in any democracy. Freedom of speech has always been protected by the law since its establishment under the Constitution.
Notably, the right to freedom of expression and speech has a long history. Traditionally, freedom of expression has been exercised in different platforms ranging from print journalism, coffee house gatherings, public protests, pamphlets and broadcast media. Social media is just the latest platform where people can exercise their freedom of expression in criticizing the government, debating on pressing political and social issues, and exchanging ideas. Today, most Americans rely in social media for news. Approximately 59% of Americans get their news form Twitter, Facebook and Reddit.
Nevertheless, there are numerous incidents where individuals have been denied their freedom of expression through censorship. For instance, lawsuits have been brought against the current President Donald Trump and two Republican governors who have allegedly violated First Amendment rights of individuals by blocking them from accessing their official social media accounts. Consequently, there have been criticism that a government agency or a politician who removes negative Facebook comments or block critical Twitter followers interferes with the constitutionally protected rights of the people . The constitution allows people to voice their opinions on political and social media online.
A free and democratic society should allow for liberty to comment and give criticism on existing structures and institutions. Such a society should be ready to benefit from multiple viewpoints which are sustained through various channels of communication including social media. Social media platforms play a very vital role in promoting political participation, debate and freedom of expression. The platforms have transformed the lives of people across the globe and within the United States in regards to the manner in which information is shared. I believe that too much censorship on social media can result to the silencing of people’s legitimate online voices. It is important that social media platforms are not unnecessarily shared so that everyone is free to debate, associate, share, organize, create, meet and learn. The law should allow voices to be heard in the manner that technology has made it possible.
Social media provides people with a platform to ensure that they raise their voices against bad governance. During elections, information should be shared freely by anyone without fear of harassment or intimidation. Women and marginalized communities use social media as a platform to speak out against violence and harassment and to request for help where necessary.
Social media will not be any safer or fairer through complete censorship. When heavy-handed moderation policies are adopted by social media companies, it may be difficult to predict the unintended consequences (McSherry & McKinney, 2018). For instance, Twitter’s policy on sexual content has led to the taking down of posts on condoms and sexual health which are beneficial to the society. YouTube’s policies on violent content have led to a journalist’s posts on Syrian war being taken down. Thus, inasmuch as online companies are making attempts to “fix” certain behaviors and attitudes on social media by censoring users’ speech, there are concerns that the policies only end up silencing innocent people instead of making the online community healthier. There are also claims that most high profile cases where despicable content has been taken down involve stories of people from marginalized groups who are major targets of violence and persecutions. Social media has been perceived as a platform for powerless people to be heard and their problems to be addressed; this should not be taken away by taking down their posts.
Nevertheless, there are circumstances where social media should be censored especially where the lives are endangered or where the security of minors is to be protected. Social media should censor illegal hate speech which is geared towards promotion of terrorism. It is unfortunate that social media is a very powerful tool used to spread hatred and violence. Violence is exposed through movies, video clips and music which refer to violent mental pictures of money, sex and rape. Movies exhibit violence through scenes n which people get their heads cut off using knives and guns, and violence against minority communities. The problem is that most people especially teenagers look at such exposures where violence is glorified and get influenced to perpetrate the vice. To ensure that the internet remains a platform for free and democratic expression, it is important to curb such vices that may lead to unwarranted and unprecedented violations (Pierson & Dave, 2016).
In regards to censorship, critics argue that social media sites such as Instagram have undertaken rather too polished and controlled approach in detecting and censoring “malicious” words (Urkmez, 2017). This approach has an effect of wrongfully censoring political, playful or teasing discussion. We need to be weary of artificial systems limiting our unique sarcastic humor and political opinions, which potentially leads to the loss of freedom of expression. The elimination of some content and deciding what content should remain betrays the basis of freedom of speech which the very platforms seek to promote.
In my opinion, it is important to appreciate that many people are relying on social media to get news. People use social media to receive, create and impart ideas and information to others. As a fundamental right, freedom of expression on social media should be protected at all costs. Nevertheless, there needs to be a balance between the freedom of expression and social media violations. Social media should be censored under limited circumstances where it is used to perpetrate such vices as bullying, hate speech, and violence.
Mahmoud, F. (2017). Between Social Media and Freedom of Speech: A Democratic Society. Medium. Retrieved from: https://medium.com/@fatimaalmahmoud/between-social-media-and-freedom-of-speech-a-democratic-society-580d0df4f2ab
McSherry, C. & McKinney, I. (2018). Platform Censorship Won’t Fix the Internet. Electronic Frontier Foundation.Retrieved from: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/04/platform-censorship-wont-fix-internet
Pierson, D. & Dave, P. (2016). Social Media Must Balance Free Speech While Suppressing Hate. Government Technology. Retrieved from: http://www.govtech.com/social/Social-Media-Must-Balance-Free-Speech-While-Suppressing-Hate.html
Urkmez, B. (2017). A Discussion of Free Speech and Censorship on Social Media. The Amnesty. Retrieved from:https://theamnesty.org/2017/07/17/a-discussion-of-free-speech-and-censorship-on-social-media/
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