Should social media companies censor information on their apps?
Censorship bias by social media companies has sometimes muzzled the very freedom fighters and victims they claim to be supporting.
A ProPublica investigation found that Facebook’s rules are opaque to users and inconsistently applied by its thousands of contractors. It concluded, “The company’s hate-speech rules tend to favor elites and governments over grassroots activists and racial minorities.”
Allowing social media companies to censor political speech would inevitably lead to biased enforcement—even by Mark Zuckerberg's admission.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, stated in 2020 that his social media platform of 2bn+ people should not become the “arbiter of truth,” as that would concentrate too much power in its hands and entangle it in partisan political debates (forcing it to choose sides).
Most Americans believe social media platforms suppress valid ideologies and viewpoints that their employees do not personally like.
According to a 2020 Pew Research Center survey, 90% of Republicans believed social media sites censored political viewpoints, while 59% of Democrats held the same view. This erodes trust in speech on these platforms, making political discourse on them more polarised.
Encouraging widespread social media surveillance by law enforcement has dangerous societal consequences.
A paper by Dan Trottier states, "Surveillance practices result in privacy violations (boyd 2008), but also compromised social relations..." For example, online surveillance led Edward Jordan to kill himself after he was falsely identified as being a cat killer.
Preventing people from posting freely on social hinders law enforcement from fighting crime.
According to Facebook’s Government Requests for User Data, there were more than 50,000 total requests in the U.S. from January 2019 to June 2019—more than ever before. Censoring users means guilty people can't post legal but distasteful and incriminating information.
For almost a decade, US police has been using off-colour social media posts by criminals to catch them.
According to a survey of 1,221 federal, state and local US law enforcement, 4 out of 5 officials used social media to gather intelligence. Censoring people presents a sanitised but inaccurate view of society, making it harder to spot criminals on social media.
There's a correlation between hateful social media posts and people suffering harm in the real world. Censorship prevents this issue.
In Germany, a correlation was found between anti-refugee Facebook posts and attacks on refugees. Karsten Muller and Carlo Schwarz observed that upticks in attacks followed spikes in hate-mongering posts. Social media companies should ban this type of speech.
Facebook was a powerful tool used in the online persecution (leading to physical harm) of Rohingya minorities in Myanmar.
In Myanmar, military leaders and Buddhist nationalists used social media to slur and demonize the Rohingya Muslim minority ahead of and during a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Facebook admitted it had done too little after seven hundred thousand Rohingya were driven to Bangladesh.
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It's unfair to prevent social media companies from censoring speech on their platforms, as other forms of media are allowed to do so.
The Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to air both sides of controversial issues, was repealed in 1987. This was celebrated by Republicans as a victory for free speech. So, social media companies should be allowed to decide which content stays on their platforms.
Government censorship of social media posts would be even more dangerous than these companies censoring themselves.
In 2018, Judge Buchwald of the U.S. District Court ruled that president Trump violated the First Amendment rights of users he blocked on Twitter, by engaging in viewpoint discrimination. This foreshadows how governmental censorship powers could be abused by a despot.