Home Opinion OPINION: Social media should not censor political speech

OPINION: Social media should not censor political speech

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Opinion writer Charlotte Caldwell argues that social media sites banning controversial viewpoints such as Alex Jones puts the spirit of the First Amendment in question.

The far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been banned from multiple social media outlets after the sites claimed his posts violated their policies by promoting hate and violence. Whether or not they had an “obligation” to silence him, and where to draw the line on hate speech, brings the First Amendment into question.

Although many of Alex Jones’ conspiracy theories represent a slim minority opinion and offended many, such as when InfoWars reported that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax, he still has a right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. The First Amendment makes fighting words and hate speech hard to ban because the case can be made about these topics being an expression of a political idea, but since social media is privately owned, they are allowed to ban whomever they please.

This is not the first case of censorship done by social media outlets, and it seems that Facebook’s hate speech line is crossed only when conservative viewpoints are expressed. “The Activist Mommy” blogger Elizabeth Johnston has been banned from Facebook multiple times after being accused of hate speech for talking about homosexuality and pornographic sex-ed in public schools, but each was later retracted with an apology from Facebook admins.

Many of the people being censored have conservative viewpoints. To make matters worse, most of the time the outlets do not offer a reason for why the content was flagged, leaving people to expect apparent bias from the companies.

The self-implied “obligation” that social media should censor specific content spurs from the same argument that is constantly ingrained in the public’s head of Russian collusion and how Russia used Facebook to sway the 2016 election.

Very few conservatives agree with Jones’ views, yet most agree that social media should not censor anyone’s content, no matter how bad it is. President Trump chimed in on Twitter, saying “Let everybody participate, good and bad, and we will all just have to figure it out.”

By violating the expressed freedoms listed in the Bill of Rights, social media companies are making it hard for many users to trust what they put and what they see on the sites. Further, social media should be an open site for anyone to express their opinions without fear of backlash, and they have no right to be the ones to interpret the Constitution. If social media are to continue to ban people that do not conform with their narrow viewpoints, then they need to have a proper explanation and fair judgment for both sides of the aisle.

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