So, What Is It With The Freedom Of Speech Issues In America And Social Media – What Gives?
To say that your freedom of speech is being violated is a serious charge, as it should be. And it does appear that there is a rush to silence the conservative voice in social media… Around elections time? Ahh…you think there’s a correlation? So, what is it with the freedom of speech issues in America and social media?
We say, “freedom of speech,” “free speech rights,” and we quickly think the first amendment.
But, when you actually read the language of the first amendment, nowhere does it say that everyone has a right to free speech. It’s not there. It’s not a right that has been given to us by the first amendment or the government.
So where does it come from?
It’s simple, speech is a God given ability. No man can give a person the ability to speak who is otherwise unable to speak. We are born with this ability.
Others may not have the ability to speak in the practical sense, but they are still able to communicate in a different way perhaps, e.g., Sign Language or via computer.
God gave us a brain and a mouth, to speak, to communicate. This is an inalienable right. This inalienable right doesn’t come from or belong to Congress. Therefore Congress can’t take it away.
Here’s the language of the first amendment:
“ Congress [emphasis added] shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,…” – First Amendment, U.S. Constitution.
While the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to introduce bills which can become laws, in effect, American constituents give Congress (i.e., Senate and House of Representatives, since we elect them), the power to make laws, … but it’s not an unbridled power or privileged, if you will. In fact, consistent with our system of checks and balances, the first amendment serves as oversight of that privilege.
Does this mean then that social media are free to dictate the speech rights of its’ users/publishers?
I say No! Others will disagree and that’s ok with me, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.
Some argue that social media are not Congress. Hence, the first amendment doesn’t apply to them. And therefore, they are not limited by first amendment restrictions .
And there is also the suggestion that because these companies are private, social media should be able to set their own rules on censorship in particular (they don’t call it censorship).
Now, whether social media companies are private or publicly held corporations with shareholders, board of directors, CEO’s, CFO’s, is not the issue…
The point is that social media conglomerates are powerful non-government apolitical platforms. They are powerful and they have lots and lots of money $$$$$$$$$$. And we want to think they are still apolitical because we want it that way.
Social media users and publishers of course must have complete freedom to be or not to be political, it’s called real freedom of speech.
Conceivably, social media’s power over the public’s speech rights and access to information can be overwhelming…if left unchecked.
And certainly social media should not have power equal to or more than Congress. Otherwise, we end up trading one master for another, and in the case of social media we didn’t even vote for them.
On July 11, 2018, at an event organized by Facebook; CNN’s Oliver Darcy, claims he asked Facebook why it was “…allowing InfoWars to maintain a page with nearly one million followers on its website…” since Facebook is allegedly fighting against “fake news and misinformation.” (Source: “Facebook touts fight on fake news, but struggles to explain why InfoWars isn’t banned.”https://money.cnn.com/2018/07/11/media/facebook-infowars/index.html).
Darcy quoted the head of Facebook’s News Feed, John Hegeman, saying:
“I guess just for being false that doesn’t violate the community standards…InfoWars has ‘not violated something that would result in them being taken down.”’ [emphasis added] Id.
Interestingly, a few days later, on the night of July 26, 2018, Facebook issued a 30 day suspension of Alex Jones’s profile, prohibiting Alex Jones from posting from his personal profile. (Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/facebook-suspends-profile-infowars-founder-says-ban-close-n).
Facebook also removed four videos from InfoWars, a site owned by Alex Jones,
because the videos allegedly violated Facebook’s “community standards.” Facebook has apparently warned that Jones is “…nearing the limit on violations of the company’s community standards…” and could eventually be banned from the network. Id.
It’s troubling to see how Facebook can tout a “fight on fake news,” particularly when the purpose of social media is just that social media. Social media is NOT a source for original reporting of news.
Users and publishers may post news (originating elsewhere, e.g., CNN, MSNBC, etc.) on social media, in the form of shares or retweets or even in the form of programs or news shows and offer their own personal commentary, opinion, discussion, interpretation or analysis of such news.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and interpretation of things or news.
People should be free to agree or disagree with opinion or anything else for that matter. God himself, the Creator of mankind, has given us complete freedom to choose to believe in Him or not.
For that reason alone, social media platforms should not start judging or condemning a person’s opinion and commentary under the alias of fake news, conspiracy theories or any other pretext.
Nor should social media engage in censorship…because to do so is to kill free speech and this is still the United States of America. We still have free speech here, even more so now under President Trump’s administration.
Moreover, it’s difficult to see how any plan to combat “fake news” would be carried out and monitored throughout the whole world and across the board without discrimination and on a daily basis.
A recent survey sponsored by the Media Research Center, found that 64.6% of
those surveyed believe that “…social media companies are censoring conservative and right-leaning views on their platform.” (Source: https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/conservatives-censorship-facebook-social-media/2018/08/29/id/8793)
In a recent tweet, President Trump, stated: “Censorship is very dangerous…” and “…too many voices are being destroyed, some good and some bad and that cannot be allowed to happen. Who is making the choices, because I can already tell you that too many mistakes are being made. Let everybody participate, good & bad, and we will all just have to figure it out!” (Source: President Trump’s tweet).
When social media starts censoring opinions and commentary, ending civilized debate and healthy discussion…
…then it’s only fair and reasonable to hold social media under a first amendment standard putting them on notice that it cannot censor people’s opinion, commentary, discussions, or even someone’s theory of things, irrespective of controversy.
Otherwise, you end up with political correctness and speech gone awry.
Publishers and users have made social media very powerful. Simply put, with the benefits of power, it’s only fair to share in liabilities, the two go hand in hand.
Unfettered censorship can kill the inalienable right of freedom of speech. Ultimately turning social media giants into masters of our speech rights, a wholly contrary notion to the principle of Freedom of Speech in America.
Social media should not be the arbiters of truth…
Jurists and juries are finders of fact and therefore the arbiters of truth (and often, even they get it wrong and people complain about there is no justice).
There is already an entire judicial system, whereby laws are interpreted, enforced and made… there exists criminal laws, defamation laws, hate speech laws, etc. These are double edged swords, designed to protect and to curb speech.
Social media is a resource that we can use to exercise our inalienable right to speak, to communicate, to formulate our own opinions, to share information.
And do you agree we prefer it stays that way?
These platforms have been welcomed with open arms by the general public, and it cannot remain viable without the general public.
In light of the history of communication and speech; humans have always managed to break through communication barriers, finding creative ways to carry their message to the people and remain informed.
I prefer to believe that social media was created as a platform for the people to stay tuned. Even if it’s replacing or has replaced the traditional town square marketplace of ideas.
Originally designed as an apolitical platform for all ideas (political or not), and it should stay that way.
Censorship is always lopsided. That’s why I agree with the President’s tweet, “…Let everybody participate, good & bad, and we will all just have to figure it out.” It’s not a perfect solution, but then we don’t live in a perfect a world.
This is the United States of America, a country of freedom, where the American people do their own research and should have the liberty to make up their own minds!
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” Matthew 12:35.
I hope you enjoyed this post and I would be interested to hear your comments, in the Comments box below! Thanks!