“It’s easy to go somewhere and win a championship with somebody else … this is the hard way to do it and we did it.”
A huge part of the larger discourse of late has been the rise of social media, and the influence it has on the populace. There is no shortage of analysis and/or hot takes on the massive scale of Facebook (or the calls to #DeleteFacebook), the often arbitrary moderation of Twitter, and whateverthehell Parler was.
The latter was effectively erased from existence, but not before a lot of people made sure we all knew they thought their freedom of speech was being infringed on.
And of course, since nature abhors a vacuum, now we have Gettr. So that’s fun.
We also have Facebook back in the news again (do they ever really leave?), after President Biden was quoted as saying “they’re killing people.”
Are they? Maybe, maybe not. Obviously, no one from Menlo Park is pulling a literal trigger, but it’s hard to ignore the platform’s reach, and how well it works as an accelerator for misinformation. One can fairly easily draw a line between bad info on social media, resistance to receiving vaccines, and an increase in COVID-related deaths.
And when just 12 people are responsible for the majority of bad info? That’s a very real problem we need to (collectively) address.
Regardless of where you stand on Facebook (or Parler’s extinction), I hope we can all agree on 2 truths:
1. Civics needs to make a return to our school’s curriculum, post haste. Critical Thinking too.
2. For all intents and purposes, social media IStoday’s Town Square. It’s where we go to share ideas, get on our (cyber) soapbox, and debate. The discourse isn’t happening down the street- it’s on your screen.
The First Amendment doesn’t apply to private companies, and everyone has to consent to a platform’s Terms of Service as a condition of participation. The easy answer here is to point to that, and say “if you don’t like it, leave.” I know, I’ve done it. But maybe the better solution is to model Terms of Service after the First Amendment.
It’s pretty clear that online is where people are now assembling, and as broad as it is, 1A still has defined guardrails. I don’t think you could legislate (read: force) companies to do this, but it’s certainly a model worth looking into going forward, even if it’s hard—especially if it means saving lives.
Don’t @ me*.
*Actually, you should totally @ me! I’d love to hear your thoughts.