Social media companies limiting speech helps prevent misinformation
Last year when former president Donald Trump was banned from several social media platforms, many began accusing those social media companies of infringing on Trump’s free speech. However, tech companies are using their own free speech to deter the spread of harmful misinformation.
The issue of granting corporations free speech is a debate many legal scholars and politicians are having to this day. The issue is not as obvious as determining whether or not social media corporations are violating free speech.
Currently, the Supreme Court case of FEC v. Citizens United declares within its ruling that only government organizations cannot restrict others’ first amendment rights apart from certain instances.
This means that private corporations can create rules that prevent certain political speech from being allowed on their site through their terms of service and other means.
It can prevent the spread of misinformation online, such as Twitter banning Trump for writing false statements about the 2020 election. Limiting speech can also prevent extremist political actors from advocating for violence.
One of the greatest benefits of private tech companies regulating speech is that they can assess the legitimacy of accounts. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have continuously come under fire for allowing misinformation to spread from bot accounts, despite the companies’ best efforts to try and deter it.
However, if the First Amendment were to be enforced upon private companies, a precedent would be established in further cases where companies would not be able to censor false claims. This would be especially damaging during an age of mass misinformation campaigns.
Tech companies would likely not be able to censor fraudulent accounts or censor extremist, inflammatory or violent content. Tech companies would be compelled by the government to allow for all speech in media. This would take the free speech away from the companies themselves and any sort of political advocacy they do would be hindered.
The absence of a First Amendment in private companies allows for tech corporations to try and combat misinformation, extremist political violence and robot accounts. Striking down this precedent set in the Citizens United case would only create more problems for the fight against misinformation.
JJ Caceres is a political science freshman who can be reached at [email protected]