The advent of social media is still relatively new. In its infancy, it was like a shiny new object; there was everything to love and nothing to hate. As it grows, though, and the honeymoon phase ends, people are at odds with how social media companies should operate.
This is especially true as it relates to community standards, moderation, and censorship regulations. Contradictory decisions on two similar laws in Texas and Florida clearly highlight the issue regarding what free speech means and how it should be enforced.
Texas Bill H.B. 20 and Florida Bill S.B. 7072
H.B. 20 and S.B. 7072 are similar in their quest to end censorship on social media platforms. Both bills prohibit social media companies with at least 50 million active users from being able to ban or demonetize content or users because of the user’s viewpoint. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against S.B. 7072, while the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld H.B. 20.
Opponents of H.B. 20 and S.B. 7072 argue that:
- The First Amendment protects citizens from government censorship of speech, not a private company’s censorship of speech.
- Government cannot compel a private company to print/publish speech that goes against their posted community standards.
- Social media platforms have an obligation to provide a safe community for its users, free of misinformation, fake news, conspiracy theories, propaganda, and hate speech.
- Algorithms setup by social media platforms to stop misinformation and propaganda campaigns cannot be biased against one side or another.
- The Federal Government should continue regulating these measures to make sure social media platforms remain protected from rampant abuse.
Supporters of H.B. 20 and S.B. 7072 argue that:
- The First Amendment protects free speech regardless of whether it’s censorship by a government or a private company.
- The line between the Federal Government’s involvement in the moderation of content has blurred so much, there may no longer be a difference between the platform and the Government.
- Who is the arbiter of what constitutes misinformation, fake news, conspiracy theories, propaganda, and hate speech? There are already practices in place for the users to moderate the content they see on their own; No one person or company should be allowed to dictate what is or isn’t misinformation.
- Algorithms and AI entities are only as neutral as the person who develops them; if a developer is strongly biased against one side or another, they can infuse those biases into the code and “learn” specific societal biases.
- If social media companies are private entities, the Federal Government should remove themselves from regulating or helping these platforms altogether.
It’s hard to know what side is right or if both sides have a point. It may all depend on the Supreme Court to officially decide this argument. Regardless of what side you’re on, we can all probably agree on one thing: death threats, violence, posting or live streaming murder or other deviant material, and child pornography and endangerment should always be banned with prejudice.