Limitation of Freedom of Speech on Social Media

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The Bill of Rights was written back in 1791 to fit the needs for the new world and the Americans that inhabited it. The rules and regulations may have worked in that time period but America has evolved so much since then. In the last 228 years America has created more awareness for so many different aspects of life. Same sex marriage, different races/cultures, etc are all topics that have changed since 1791. One aspect that still needs improvement is the topic of freedom of speech. This amendment is one of the reasons why so many Americans are divided today.

The First Amendment which is housed in the Bill of Rights states, “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 the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” (First Amendment) Basically, the freedom of speech is the right of every individual to have their voice heard and not be punished for their opinion. It also means that no one including the government can shut the opinions down even if they do not agree with it.

The issue with this amendment is that some people are saying that they are not able to express their opinions freely, while others are abusing their right of being able to speak out such as by giving hate speeches. People are trying to speak their mind, which someone else might take in the wrong way, causing them to be blocked or reported because of their opinion. When they get blocked they feel as though they are not being able to express themselves properly.

One example of freedom of speech being violated is when President Trump blocked Twitter users from his account. Some people argued saying that that was a violation because Twitter is a public area where people are allowed to post their comments. They claim that by blocking users, President Trump is prohibiting them to speak their minds. Others argue that this was not a violation because that account was his account which he created before he became president. Therefore, he has the right to block anyone he chooses. However, the judge ruled that President Trump had violated the First Amendment because he was discriminating against free speech by blocking other users.

Another example is when in 2012 a teacher, Kelly Short, sued a high school for violating the First Amendment for her students. She was a journalism teacher and was in charge of the newspaper and yearbook which she claimed that the administration was trying to control. She had told the administration that she was not going to restrict her student’s right to freedom of speech. Her attorney, Dan Canon, believed that the whole issue started in 2011 when the student newspaper had written an article about the cost of the security cameras and how they were placed around the school. Canon thinks that the principal took out his anger on Short by saying that any article written in the future would have to be looked over and approved three days before printing. He claimed that the articles would be reviewed for content that was ‘ungrammatical, poorly written, inadequately researched, biased or prejudiced, vulgar or profane or unsuitable for immature audiences.’ Canon said that the principal can be the publisher but he is violating the boundaries that were placed by the constitution. He said, “Our Supreme Court has said you can’t place those prior restrictions on speech like that.” In a letter from the principal to Short it stated that the Supreme Court also said that “school officials can review non-forum, curricular student publications before they go to press.’ Kelly Short was suspended from the school during the process of the lawsuit. She claimed that she was suing for emotional suffering, humiliation, and mental distress. She also wanted her job back.

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It is possible that the school was wrong because as a teacher she must have looked over the articles written by the students to make sure that they were school friendly. She would not let anything be printed if it was offensive to anyone. According to her claims, the principal was upset because the cameras of the school were the subject of an article. If what the student said was school appropriate, then there is no reason why it cannot be published. If students do not speak out about the problems in their school, then how will those problems ever get fixed? However, it was fine if the principal asked to look over the articles. The teacher might have taken this in a personal way thinking that the principal believes that she is not doing her job, but if he wanted to look over it too then there is no harm being done. When it comes to our right of freedom of speech, all speeches are allowed under the terms of free speech but there should be some form of limitations on them. Hate speeches can cause emotional distress and physically harm someone. People who hear and follow hate speeches can go through a whirlwind of trauma throughout their life because of all the violence and ideology of the speeches. Furthermore, children who see and hear hateful speeches are more likely to think that it is okay to talk like that. It is fine to want to voice opinions but giving speeches that fill others with antagonism and destruction is not tolerable. There needs to be some limit placed on speeches like these.

An example of how a hate speech can affect a society is from a recent study of Facebook in 2018. If someone looks at or likes a post, Facebook will show more posts of a similar topic. Therefore, if someone looks at and shows interest about a post about radical extremism, then Facebook will show them more posts consisting of the same topic. Multiple posts about one topic can make someone start to believe what they see, if they did not already. This was the case when a man poured gasoline on the attic of a refugee group home and set it on fire because of some posts he saw on Facebook. Another similar example is from 2017 when the mayor of a town was stabbed by another man that saw hate posts about the mayor’s political policies.

A final example is when Facebook was used to share hate pictures, comments, videos, etc about Muslim groups. According to the report, the various posts were encouraging the removal of these groups of people in a particular area. These posts apparently went against Facebook’s rule which states that no posts are allowed to attack any race. When Facebook was confronted about this they were too slow to respond to such a pressing issue. As of August last year, Facebook was still trying to figure out a way to resolve this problem. Unfortunately for Facebook, every time they try to cover up any problem they are having, more issues they have dealt with resurface all over the news. It is not just Facebook that must deal with problems like these because the same rules apply to almost every form of social networking. Any place that has advertisements including websites will most likely show products or ads of something that has been looked at before by that viewer.

Solving the issue with freedom of speech is one that is not easy because there are so many aspects that need to be taken into consideration. As more information on the issues were found, the complexity of the problems was shown along with how hard it is to try and fix them in a way that will work for everyone. Free speech can be limited when it comes to damaging someone else’s reputation, indecency, and prohibition. Although, some people manage to find loopholes in these rules. There definitely needs to be some regulations placed on spreading hate because the more hate that is spread, the more people get hurt physically and mentally. Hate speeches are allowed, but they are hurting so many people which is why their limitations should be reevaluated. The problem remains with people feeling as though they cannot voice their opinions. With the example of users being blocked from President Trump’s Twitter page, it is important to know that those users had the right to post whatever message they wanted to convey to the president. This goes along with the rest of society today. Each individual has the right to speak their mind and they should not let anyone stop them because it is their right as a citizen. So if someone is preventing voices from being heard in an illegal manner, then society is allowed to rebel and stand up for what they know is their right.

The only things that everyone should consider before they post online or say directly to someone, is to think before they speak and be considerate of others around them. Each person wants their voice heard whether they are angry, joyous, sad, etc. It is very important to know that once it is posted online, almost anyone can access it. Therefore, think how a particular picture, video, or comment can hurt someone else. Get the message across in a way where people understand it rather than take it in a negative way.

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