Our First Amendment of the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Our free speech is protected by censorship. What is not bound by the First Amendment are to social media platforms by private companies.
First, let us review the Federal Communications Decency Act, Section 230. The act is a law that immunizes websites from legal liability for comments of their users. It was designed by enabling the internet and companies to develop without fear of censorships or lawsuits. It was protecting freedom of expression and innovation on the internet.
The social media companies can and will monitor the content on their platforms. They will determine what is permissibly by a code of conduct, rules and/or their business ethics. Some areas of speech which might be removed is hate speech, harassment, obscenity and misinformation. Each social media company can and will restrict or remove individuals such as our 45th president of the United States with his account on Twitter, but now reinstated on X.
Our Founding Fathers did not have social media, but they did have the free press. Listed below are quotes from some of our Founding Fathers on free speech as listed in the First Amendment:
• “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.” Benjamin Franklin, a letter from Silence Dogood printed in the New England Courant, July 9, 1772.
• The only security of all is in a free press.” Thomas Jefferson
• “The liberty of the press is essential to the security of the state.” John Adams, Free Press Clause, Massachusetts Constitution, 1780.
• For if men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.” George Washington, address to the officers of the Army, March 15, 1783.
• “The liberty of the press consists, in my idea, in publishing the truth, from good motives and for justifiable ends, through it reflect on the government, on magistrates, or individuals.” A segment from Alexander Hamilton, People v. Croswell, Feb. 13, 1804
Our freedom of speech on social media is like a double-edged sword. It can be used to express thoughts of wisdom and expression of one’s individual ideas of what he or she believes.
But if the speech in its content consists of misinformation, hate speech, obscenity and harassment, most likely it can and will be removed from the social media platform, and so it should be.
Thomas E. Carter