Lies, Damned Lies, and Social Media

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding whether or not social media platforms have the right to moderate content. First Amendment purists seem to believe that such platforms have become the equivalent to a 19th Century town square; therefore, this line of reasoning goes, “moderation” is actually censorship.

Yet the First Amendment does not prevent forums from refusing to broadcast lies. If I purchased ad time from a local station to claim that the governor is really an alien from a distant planet, the station would not be obligated to run the ad because it’s an obvious (and probably slanderous) untruth. Platform monitors could also remove it–particularly if they believed it contained misinformation that could swing an election.

Therein lies the rub: in a world where everyone with an email account can throw words into a post, who decides what is factual, what is not, and what is an obvious lie meant for entertainment? Lines between information, editorializing, satire, and entertainment get ever more blurred on social media. What should result in a post being taken down?

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12 Responses to Lies, Damned Lies, and Social Media

  1. Gracyn Young says:

    I think that it is important for people to do their own research, especially when considering topics like politics, due to its often, untruthful nature. Even if the information given is not particularly false, it’s easy to sway a situation to encourage others to view it differently. In general, however, limiting what people say, true or not, goes against the First Amendment. So, unless something is extremely harmful or diagnostically untrue, whether we like it or not, people have the right to talk and petition about whatever they want.

  2. Andy Chen says:

    I recall discussing this in class, and I was fairly convinced by the arguments in favor of social media platforms having the right to moderate content as they see fit. These platforms are private institutions and blocking a post should not be considered a violation of the right to free speech. If a platform is seen as unjust or unfair in its content moderation policy, then it should follow that a well-informed, truth-seeking public would migrate to another platform. A platform that fails to properly filter content on its site (take Twitch for a recent example), will suffer in the court of public opinion, and consequently, in earnings and revenue.

  3. Carter Scaggs says:

    I like to think of social media platforms as equivalent to real life platforms, such as auditoriums and college campuses, where people can express ideas. The owners of platforms have the right to deny service towards speakers, the same as businesses having the right to deny service to certain people. I feel as though this does not violate the First Amendment because people still have that right to express that belief, just not using that certain platform. Personally, I disagree with the idea because social media platforms are so widely used that they should pose as an exception, however, through the logic of American law, companies have the right to refuse service, and this should involve social media platforms.

  4. Jennifer Bui says:

    Social Media is a place for people to express themselves whether that be through their opinions or physically through art or media. Who decides what is factual, what is not, and what is an obvious lie meant for entertainment is up to the viewer. At the end of the day, it is up to the viewer to agree or disagree with the publisher and to research the topic before forming an opinion. However, since social media is open to the public and allows various opinions lines between information, editorializing, satire, and entertainment get very blurred. Hence, what should result in a post being taken down, is only if the post is harming another person or showcasing illegal activities.

  5. Zuxia Li says:

    I believe social media should be a platform for people to express themselves up to a certain extend. There is a difference between opinions and straight up ignorance. Without censorship, people would use it to their advantage. It is one thing to say how you feel towards a certain topic, but it is another thing to degrade someone for their opinion. Of course you can disagree with other people because everyone has their own opinion, but their is no need to bash them for it. Doing your own research before believing what you see or read is always a good idea. It is irrational of a person to dictate their belief/opinion after seeing one post about it, because who knows if it is true. At the end of the day, setting limits is not unreasonable for the sake of the community and the company itself.

  6. Teagan Lotwala says:

    Misinformation is always going to be stirring on the internet. I believe that people who use the internet should tread lightly on the information they receive. I think that social media companies have the right to run their website as they see fit as long as it doesn’t break any laws. This means that they can make the app users see whatever they want them to see and this is the big problem with censorship. On the other hand, lack of censorship can lead to sites that are purely based on misinformation that can sway the minds of people. Ultimately, social media SHOULD find a safe middle ground that allows different viewpoints to take place but still keeps out the completely wrong information. In the end, it is up to the user to be educated so that social media doesn’t drastically change a point of view.

  7. Manpreet Singh says:

    Social media platforms are meant to be a space where individuals can express themselves, but with a reasonable limit. While some people may have valid opinions, others can be ignorant or even abusive. If there is no censorship in social media, it can lead to people using the platform to spread hate and negativity. It is acceptable to have an opinion, but it is not okay to degrade or insult someone based on their views. In such cases, censorship can help maintain a respectful and safe environment. People should also take the time to research a topic before forming an opinion and avoid spreading misinformation. All in all, censorship is necessary to promote healthy and constructive discussions on social media.

  8. Komal Patel says:

    I believe that social media platforms should be used to spread opinions and ideas. However, I do understand the harm that online lies and quick spread of mass media hysteria has on the public. Nowadays, it seems much harder to find genuine and true information(and social media plays a big part in that) due to the overwhelming amount of untrue information circulating influential platforms. Because of that, I would like lies and harmful words to be monitored and even taken off the platform, but due to the First Amendment people have the right to talk and spread word(untrue or not) about any topic. I believe a happy medium to this problem would be to allow the owners of the certain social media sites moderate the words online. Private platforms should be able to block posts without it going against the First Amendment. In a perfect world, no matter the case, everyone would do their own research.

  9. Aliyiah Richey says:

    If im being honest, when we think about what is true and what it not, it really depends on the person. Most people ill believe what they want no matter the circumstance. I think that instead of asking what is defined as true and truth. We should think about what truth means to us.
    Social Media in itself is not meant to be taken as the truth. Social Media is a very small portion of what their reality is. No matter how much someone tells you something on social media, it will never be logically widely accepted as the truth. Media is meant to be consumed. The truth will never be known because in order the know the truth, you have to be free of all implementation of bias counter-arguement.

    Something that should result in consequence for an individual for something said on the internet is something that targets or harms another person. that is when a lie should be punished. Now its different if somewhere were to say something bluntly says something incorrect because of the wild ideas and argument they aim to make.

  10. Myia Williams says:

    Everyone has access to social media and a platform to voice their opinions or anything else. To have an opinion is fine, however it becomes a problem if you use social media to hurt other people and spread hate. Social media filtering can make it illegal for this kind of action to occur there.

  11. Manjot Singh says:

    The ongoing debate about social media content moderation, highlighted in recent Supreme Court discussions, emphasizes the importance of granting platforms the authority to regulate content within their private domains, similar to how TV stations reject false or defamatory ads. However, determining what content should be removed is complex in a digital landscape where distinguishing fact from opinion, satire, and entertainment is challenging. Clear guidelines rooted in accuracy and public benefit are necessary for effective moderation. Additionally, market forces can drive accountability, with users potentially shifting to platforms that prioritize responsible content management. Empowering platforms to moderate effectively is crucial for fostering a healthier digital discourse while upholding user rights and the public interest.

  12. Grace Ann Courtney says:

    Misinformation was particularly harmful during COVID-19, which is the exact time that I started getting into social media. The misinformation that was spread was particularly harmful to public health. I am a firm believer that moderation is not censorship. Yes, books should not be banned. Yes, a post that says that the vaccine causes a third eye should be taken down. While no one should be responsible for other people’s foolishness in believing these lies, they can be managed with the control of social media. As you said, anyone with an email address has the ability to reach the entire world. With that responsibility, companies must manage blatant lies or hate speech.

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