As if the past year hasn’t been eventful enough, the country received another dose of controversy after reports of the capitol building being stormed by Trump supporters during the “Stop The Steal” rally that was protesting the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Prior to the violent climax of the capital ambush, President Trump had been quite vocal on social media about his opinions on the claims that the election was rigged, and social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been heavily criticized by some over their role in moderating what information should be available to the public. This has brought back the discussion to freedom of speech in the digital age about what type of responsibility social media has in blocking content.
Should everyone be allowed to speak freely online? The question doesn’t seem to have obvious answers, but social media has made some controversial decisions over the past four years about their approach to silence or promote information. As recently as last month, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg, two of the most powerful leaders in social media, testified before Congress about whether or not their respective companies should be liable for the information posted on their platforms.
The argument can easily be made the public should be able to decide on what to believe after any and all information is presented. However, the flipside of the coin, is because any information can be made available, it allows the possibility for fiction to be manipulated into fact. If the leaders of digital media platforms stay silent as misinformation permeates, users are incapable of making informed decisions.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and creator of Facebook, publicly addressed President Trump’s most recent posts and stated that he will be banned “indefinitely”. He posted on Facebook, “We believe the risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”
Even after more than ten years of social media being a major part of global communications, there still doesn’t seem to be a true consensus on whether companies should have total reign on what users say or have access to. But after the events at Trump’s rally, there has been increased pressure for these platforms to make clear and absolute policies. Unfortunately, for many of these companies some users feel the damage has already been done. According to the New York Times, some Facebook employees mentioned Trump was only suspended because of the recent Democratic shift in the Senate.
It’s become clear that now is the time for tech giants to make a stand, one way or the other. The issue of free speech on social media isn’t easy to solve, but the past few days have shown the world that delayed action can have severe consequences.
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