Regulate Speech on Social Media 

Jack Horton, Staff Writer


The rise of social media technology has dramatically changed the public forum in a way which must necessitate some regulations on forms of speech. Take criminal speech for example. If someone is using social media to facilitate criminal activity, then not only is their speech not protected and socially harmful, but its ban would make the ability to coordinate crimes more difficult. Some crimes which are of particular note include threats which do not result in physical injury but do result in an emotional one.A clear line; however, would need to be drawn between a threat meant for a video game and a threat made directly at a person. By this logic some regulations on freedom of speech can be extended into the realm of hate speech which also causes individuals extreme levels of anxiety. There are many things which a rudimentary filter on speech would allow. For example, it would prevent cyberbullying as well as a process known as doxxing where victims have their information posted online who then face in-person harassment.

If you are not following this train of logic then you have probably got one of the following arguments. Law of Stanford presents them as follows: “Deciding whether a particular speech is worthy of protection, or not, is a slippery slope…each country nevertheless retains its own legal framework, and may or may not view a particular speech, such a blasphemy or lèse majesté [insulting a monarch], as legal…Who has the right to decide which speech must be suppressed on social media sites?” The first claim goes in two directions. If censoring speech is a slippery slope then allowing all forms of speech is another slippery slope. The first claim calls for caution, which is admirable, but due to the rapid changes going on within our society some caution runs the risk of being complacent towards the suffering of others online.  The second argument argues that if one country starts censoring speech online, then that would result in the issue of holding international users accountable or quarantining the internet from other regions. This quarantine would result in the increasing division between nations who would be using different websites and speech allowed. This is a powerful argument; however, again this argument runs in two directions. Should speech be actively curtailed to keep other nations happy? For example, speech that contains aforementioned blasphemy and insults upon a monarch. To allow that is to give up some form of national sovereignty and the duty of a nation to advocate and fight for its citizens rights. However, I also think citizens have a right to exist in a safe place online. The third argument is legal jurisdiction. The ACLU presents the argument that in “Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, the Supreme Court held that the government can no more restrict a person’s access to words or images on the Internet than it can snatch a book out of someone’s hands.” With a lack of legal founding it would seem the government has no right within the United States of America to actually censor speech online beyond what it has already elected to do in person. For example, hate speech, criminal speech, or malicious intent speech such as doxxing could be censored, since there exists in person equivalents which were ruled upon as justified. However, speech which presents itself as factual and is actually false would still be allowed under this ruling as long as there was no actual malicious intent behind that speech.

Leaving no stone unturned there is the specific issue of bots being used to spam out speech at an inhuman level of speed. These bots are often used to make things seem more or less popular than they really are. Often these bots dilute the power of speech from human users. Bots are another form of pseudo speech which should be regulated to protect the power of speech from humans. The next stone to turn is the concept of spreading false information which again makes expressing other rights more difficult and can mislead the public.

The issue comes down to telling parody from genuine facts. Due to the various issues outlined above and the lack of harm it generally causes to people of sound rational minds, False information would still be protected speech, unless the person poses as an authority figure,