Opinion: People need access to the truth about censorship of social media


"Social Media Icons on an iPhone 7 Screen (Creative Commons by https://www.staceymacnaught.co.uk ))" by stacey.cavanagh is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Social media has too much influence in today’s society to be subjectively censored by big tech companies. In order to protect freedom of speech and maintain autonomy of social media companies, users should be able to publicly contest their censored posts on a live-stream.

Back in the day, if you had something to say, you could say it, and those around you would be your witness. If you wanted to be heard in a wider range, you could write something and publish it, making it available for anyone to read. 

[Social media] is a way of connecting with other people, sharing our views, and honestly, fitting in. ”

— Staff Writer Kaitlyn Doyle

Today, if you have something to say, you can still publish it, but taking it to social media has a different result. 

Google defines social media as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” 

But social media seems like a lot more than just websites to share on. Introductions nowadays include our name, age, and Instagram handle. It is a way of connecting with other people, sharing our views, and honestly, fitting in. 

Social media’s reach is worldwide, and fast. Anyone with a public account can gain a million followers overnight, transforming a teenager into a global influencer in a matter of hours. Bad news travels like wildfire, sure, but on social media, it travels at the speed of light. Just look at how social media saved thousands of lives during the 2017 Houston flood and during the California wildfires

But there is a price. Once something is posted on social media, it is part of your digital footprint, out on the internet for the world to see. An opinion is more than just a fleeting comment. It becomes a permanent statement that can haunt you for the rest of your life

Our ancestors were perfectly fine without social media, and our generation would be too. It is not that social media is necessarily important, it is more impactful. And something with that much of an impact has a huge amount of power. 

Everything and everyone has some kind of agenda, and social media companies are no exception.”

— Staff Writer Kaitlyn Doyle

As Spider-Man says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Because of the consequences of social media, I have seen so many people forced to take responsibility for what they say and do, both online and in person. The same cannot be said for big tech companies. 

It is wrong that something with such power is owned by companies — companies, might I add, that all communicate and share data together. Companies, who are not held responsible for what people post, yet have the power to censor their users

Everything and everyone has some kind of agenda, and social media companies are no exception. But who has the authority to check them on their bias? Who is to prevent them from censoring whatever they want, from disregarding constitutional freedoms, on these platforms that are so influential? Clearly, the courts have no power

If the courts cannot protect our freedoms of speech online, then who can?

These are private companies and I do agree that they should have the right to decide what is offensive and what is not. However, I do not agree that a private company can have so much control over our lives, control that hinges on these rules, which are so subjective. 

If we are held accountable for saying things we do not mean online, then why are we being censored from saying the things we want to take responsibility for?

[B]ig tech companies would be obligated to defend the decision not only to the person censored but to all users of the company.”

— Staff Writer Kaitlyn Doyle

What if these big tech and social media companies made a limited set of regulations and conditions that call for censorship? Things that arguably should be censored because it is not meaningful speech (such as pornography, nudity, extreme violence, etc). These rules would be cut and dry, easy to understand, and not easy to extend. 

That leaves all the things that could be censored under the “offensive” terms. 

Let these big tech companies censor it. If it is offensive or violates company policy, then that is that. Because these companies are private, they have the right to censor what they want. 

But here’s the catch: let them plead their case to the ones in charge, the CEOs. Using the first amendment and the landmark Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines, let people prove that their posts are meaningful and part of their freedom of speech. 

I believe that these “cases” need to be live-streamed. That way users of these companies can know exactly how these big tech companies operate and exactly where their rights start and end. 

CEOs may be busy, but they need to make time. Otherwise, it says to their customers and competitors that they do not know what is going on within their own company. If they cannot adequately defend their reasoning of why meaningful speech is censored, then it should be a red flag to everyone that big tech companies are censoring speech according to their political agendas — not based on regulations set for the benefit of everyone. 

It is okay if there are formalities that need to be met in order to take a “case” to the CEO. Much like in the judicial system, it takes time and a genuine issue to take a lawsuit far enough to make a change. But, as history has shown, these changes are sometimes necessary. 

The problem lies in defining what a “genuine issue” is, and which ones make it to the CEO. Well, the whole point of this is to protect our freedoms, specifically our first amendment rights. So in order for a case to be a “genuine issue,” it has to have sound, legal, reasoning supporting it as protected speech. That way, if the companies want to rescind the censorship, they can avoid the live-stream. 

My dad often tells me that there are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.”

— Staff Writer Kaitlyn Doyle

But if they want to maintain the censorship, big tech companies would be obligated to defend the decision not only to the person censored but to all users of the company. The live-stream would not need the comments on, it would just need to be available. 

The federal government could make laws that bind social media companies to some kind of judicial system. That way, the private companies, and the government stay separate, these companies get to censor what they want, and the people get a chance to fight for their freedoms being threatened. 

This system could be completely run by the companies, the legal reasoning cleared by federal judges, and the case pleaded by the victims and published for the public. 

My dad often tells me that there are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.

These live-streams would allow people to make up their own minds about what goes on behind the scenes, to see the third side. It would be a chance for the people, the users, the victims, to take back the truth.

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