Should we agree on this?
Addressing social media consent forms, agreements, and community guidelines.
The only social media platform that I use is LinkedIn and an automated Twitter account (which I don’t log into). Although I’ve tried other social media platforms and even dating apps, I was only on them for a couple of days. I understand those who use social media, there are some benefits that warrant creating an account. I could pick apart each platform and call attention to the mental health issues caused by heavy social media use, but for this article, I want to draw attention to the fundamental understanding of free speech. I was watching a YouTube video the other day that brought together people from different political backgrounds. Since I legitimately wanted to hear both sides, I attempted to actively listen and withdraw my personal bias. However, there was one perspective that I could not ignore.
Hannah (Jubilee Participant): “When you go onto Twitter whenever you check the ‘I accept the community guidelines and I agree to follow them’ he [Trump] didn’t follow them. So twitter has the right to take him off the app”. Source
In this scenario, Hannah’s viewpoint was supported by her political contemporaries. She was not on an island with her thinking. This is concerning for several reasons, but before we get into the concerns, let’s understand how this viewpoint may make logical sense to a lot of people. First and foremost, Twitter is a private company, which means that there is a corporate legal structure that differs from other private structures, and differs from governmental legal structures. You can make a sound argument from a legal standpoint that Twitter has the authority to ban users. I have no problem with that logic, it makes sense. However, there is a failure to acknowledge that when a private company grows large enough to influence the general populous, there are an additional set of rules that the company has to adhere to. Let me put this into perspective.
As it stands today we are still in the Covid-19 pandemic which means that vaccines, therapeutics, and other drugs are being administered. These drugs were created by private companies for public consumption. Since the public was the main party using the drugs, the FDA and several other legal governing bodies stepped in to approve a general implementation of the vaccines and therapeutics. You can not have a noticeable impact on the population and not expect to have governmental rules to abide by. I don’t think I know a single person who would be more comfortable signing a consent form of one of the pharmaceutical companies and having no governmental backing. Twitter is a private company that has a profound impact on free speech across the general populous. When the general public is noticeably influenced by a new innovation, there will always be governmental rules and regulations that come into play. For Twitter, that regulation would be the first amendment. You should be concerned with a platform that can remove the speech of the highest held office in the country. The president of the United States, whether you like them or not should be heard by the people. That is literally the focal point of being a president. To sit here and deny that is beyond comprehension to me. Now if the platform identified itself as a certain ideology, that would be acceptable. But you can’t say you’re an impartial company and then remove someone’s speech who sits in the highest chair of government. People in office who are in charge of making important policy decisions for the people need to have their voice distributed. We have to be on the same page about this. Maybe there is an agreement both sides can come to, but we can’t see stuff like this happening and not come to an agreement on the ethics.
Can we sit here and say that this is ethical? I don’t think so. People need to hear all forms of opinions. Do you really not want to hear anything from Alt-right groups? That would scare me more because I wouldn’t have any idea what they’re thinking. Ignoring the reality that comes with free speech is dangerous. It’s ok to feel negative emotions about someone else, and then proceed on with your day. There is no feasible way to create a world where every single individual meets our idealization of what a person should behave and look like. This is just my general feeling and opinion based upon a brief segment of the interaction in the video. As for the rest of the video, I had a limited response to the various viewpoints. I’ll end by quoting the Legal Information Institute and providing a link to their resources on the first amendment:
“Despite the popular misunderstanding, the right to freedom of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment is not very different from the right to freedom of speech. It allows an individual to express themselves through publication and dissemination. It is part of the constitutional protection of freedom of expression. It does not afford members of the media any special rights or privileges not afforded to citizens in general.”
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