Roughly 7-in-10 adults log onto social media sites every day. Facebook, for example, has become the largest public-like forum to ever exist. Twitter, although smaller, has become a sort of digital public square.
So, with more than 240 million Americans using social media each day it begs the question: Are social media bans censoring free speech?
The answer to that question is complicated only because the companies are privately owned. The reality, however, is that yes, banning someone on social media in this day and age is a form of censorship. Whether or not it should be made illegal is where the debate lies.
The Power of Social Media
Right now, social media sites have the absolute right to ban people from their platform if they feel that a person is doing something harmful. The First Amendment of the Constitution only protects people from censorship by the government. That’s why President Donald Trump was told he’s not allowed to block people on Twitter.
That’s why bans on social media are legal censorship when government officials are involved.
Should we change that?
As we’ve already mentioned, these social media sites are the biggest public forums ever created. That gives relatively few private corporations a lot of power.
Facebook, in particular, holds much of that power. When Facebook bans someone, they have silenced that voice and prevented tens of millions of people from communicating with that banned individual. Facebook, however, censors speech in another much more subtle and, perhaps, damaging way than just banning people.
Facebook’s Media Bans
When you log onto Facebook, the first thing you look at is the newsfeed. The newsfeed is controlled by an algorithm that decides what you’re going to see. Traditionally, news articles would show up as part of a user’s newsfeed.
Facebook has changed its algorithm to limit the number of news articles that make it to feeds. That’s alarming when you consider the fact that 55% of people admit to getting their news “often” or “sometimes” from social media.
By curating what shows up on the newsfeed, Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter censor the media as well as individual people. Independent media organizations across the political spectrum have decried this practice.
The Real Question
Knowing all of that, the question really isn’t ”Is a social media ban a form of censorship?” We know that it is and we know it’s potentially harmful.
A handful of private companies deciding what is and is not allowed to be shared in their public-like square that’s privately owned, in the digital age, gives these companies an alarming amount of power. That’s not ideal.
The real question, however, is, ”Should lawmakers do something about it?”
Copyright 2019, TargetLiberty.org