In recent years, social media sites have enjoyed immunity to prosecution for the things their users have posted on their platforms. However, with the government’s stance towards Big Tech changing, these protections may likely be given a second look. The legal shield that has come to the aid of social media companies is the Communications Decency Act of 1996, allowing social media to police their users’ speech as they see fit. With the recent concern about social media filtering out conservative voices, the government is reconsidering whether those companies should have the right to remove content as they wish.
Last spring Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri (Rep.) asked that companies submit to a government audit of the content that they ban. If the companies fail to secure a bias-free inspection from the governmental agency, then their protections under the Communications Decency Act would be suspended. At current, social media sites enjoy an unprecedented level of data control (and collection). Complaints about how social media companies are censoring their users’ content have led to the government starting probes into so-called “Big Tech.”
Championing Free Speech For All Sides
Social media still exists as one of the few bastions of free speech in places where local governments heavily control the press. On the other hand, social media is notorious for being a breeding ground for anonymous harassment, and posts of this nature are rightfully removed by the sites they show up on. However, when social media firms start having input into what people see in regards to political content, the topic becomes difficult. Unlike traditional media, no code of ethics requires social media sites to be unbiased.
Censorship serves no one, and in the long run, social media sites will suffer from introducing it into their forums. Already, users have deserted services because of censorship. When the blogging site Tumblr banned anything that could be considered pornographic, the user base collapsed overnight as bloggers migrated to more friendly platforms. While the censorship of political content is a different matter, Tumblr’s collapse contains valuable lessons for social media on the topic of censorship. More governmental control may not be the answer, but the restriction of information should also not fall into the hands of a biased few.