Terms and Agreements: How Much Influence Should the Government have on Social Media regulation?

On January 6, 2021, something “unprecedented” happened. A word that had become commonly used with the describing almost everything that the 45th president of the United States. On this Wednesday morning, a failed attempt at a coup, said to be sparked by the president’s “rally” that was filled with propaganda, lies, and misleading information. The attempted coup led to the deaths of 5 people. For the second time, within his one-term presidency, the president had been impeached. Something that was also “unprecedented” as this was the first time in the history of the United States that it had ever happened. However, what was fascinating to me was the overwhelming backlash of Trump supporters towards social media platforms that decided to block him on their platforms indefinitely.

Many claimed that 45 was being “censored” and that his freedom of expression was being violated. I always find it interesting when people only read the first sentences of something or regurgitate what they have been taught over the years of their youth from good ole’ mom and dad. Many CEOs of popular social media sites, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, have been called over the years to testify in front of congress to speak on the numerous violations that their platform has been involved in. What makes Facebook’s decision especially interesting in censoring the president was that they had admitted to being aware of Russian influence on the 2016 election that assisted with Trump winning the presidency (Bond, 2020). Twitter, the president’s favorite social media platform also “censored” him.

During the 2020 election, Trump attached Twitter after fact checking him on the misleading information that he tweeted regarding mail-in-ballots being fraudulent. What Trump and many of his base fail to realize is that “hate speech” and private organizations do not fall under being covered by Freedom of Expression. Every social media platform has a term and agreement page that you have to agree to before creating an account. If you violate the terms and agreement, you can have your privileges revoked. Facebook and Twitter are privately held, publicly traded companies. Therefore, they still possess the right to make and enforce their own rules.

In the past, Trump’s party has had a very strong foothold on keeping businesses private. Whether you agree with their policies or not private businesses are the backbone of the American economy. However, Trump as well as other senators having tweeted many things that would constitute them having their accounts shut down. Many have racial or civil injustice undertones. The difference here, is them praising someone who has done bad things tweeted in. For Trump, it was an escalation that we as a country has watched. It is important to point out that all this was still under the back-drop of a pandemic, racial injustice, and social unrest.  Many American’s were surprised by that attempted coup, but many were not as they saw it coming the last 4 years. Most importantly was all the false information that was being put out there over the last year. Sowing seeds of voter fraud, many republican voters still, chose to believe Trump won the presidency even after all 50 states confirmed their vote count.

With more and more right-wing conservative groups starting social media source such as Parlor, it might end up being the reason for the government to have to get involved in private platforms that can be spread to affect the public. Although, in many cases the intentions when posting their opinions. Many people have a tendency to go on social media and rant, “no harm”
“no fowl”. However, in this case, there was 5 deaths and numerous injuries and property damage. Trump like many American’s can find themselves in a situation where they have a tendency to overshare, thinking that everything can be deleted. As we examine “cancel” culture, we have ran across famous people all the time who have the thought process that everything on the internet can be deleted. That is not the case as we see. The problem with venting online is that it is tied to emotions that are fickled. It is very important to think things through before posting, as someone will most definitely gather a screenshot.

All and all social media platforms have the right to “silence” those they feel are a potential threat to themselves or the public. Your title and position should have no weight in relation to what is being posted, discussed or likes. The first amendment states that the government cannot get involved in freedom of expression, this only covers, public businesses. As the president or previous president, he could have easily called a press conference the way presidents handled it before social media was a thing. Using the term loosely when discussing constitution violations, we have to always remember to put in context as it is not just a blanketed amendment. Laws like most things are not as cut and dry as we would like to believe. They have loopholes and it’s important to us and those that we are trying to explain these things to understand them in context.

Source:

Bond, S. (2020).  Facebook, Twitter Remove, More Russian-Backed Fake Accounts, Ahead of Election. NPR.org. https://www.npr.org/2020/09/24/916636508/facebook-twitter-remove-more-russian-backed-fake-accounts-ahead-of-election

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/trump-threatens-social-media-platforms-twitter-fact-check-regulation-133521359.html

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