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Opinions: Social Media and Free Speech

Free speech debate on social media

Student on Twitter | Photo by Grace Ramsdell | The Wright State Guardian

Following former President Donald Trump’s ban from Twitter after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, controversy over free speech and private companies became a top political debate.   

Private companies 

Twitter, along with other social media giants such as Facebook, are private companies. As a private company, banning those who violate company policy is not a violation of the First Amendment. 

“The most prominent free speech protections come from the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. But what many people seem to forget is that these protections only protect individuals from federal and state action (the Fourteenth Amendment applies the First Amendment to the states),” Tom Spiggle said in Forbes Magazine. 

As long as Twitter is not discriminating against users, they can set company policy and ban those who violate their terms and conditions. 

“It’s this private versus government action that also allows many employers the right to restrict the free speech rights of their employees,” Spiggle said in Forbes.  

The digital age 

As social media takes hold of the world, a slew of problems appear. One glaring problem is the free speech debate. While Former President Trump was banned legally, it highlighted just how much power tech giants hold. 

The line between tech companies and social responsibility is often blurred. Some have called for regulation of these companies. A ban on a prominent figure or the lack of removal often brings split reactions.  

Wright State University student opinions 

Trevor Paddon, a sophomore computer science major disagreed with the ban.  

“I think they shouldn’t have the power to do it. Whether you disagree with him or not, he was using his right to speak freely, and by banning him they kind of took that away,” Paddon said.  

Paddon shares the sentiment that many Americans share: a controversial statement is fair game because we live in a society protected by the First Amendment.  

Tionna Clyburn, a senior Media Studies major, found the ban to be odd.  

“When it comes to social media sites banning Trump, I honestly find it strange. I am not a fan of Trump in any way at all, but here’s my thing: If they’re going to crack down on Trump, why aren’t they cracking down on all individuals who promote extremist views? Not that they should, but it’s strange you know?” Clyburn said.  

Clyburn thinks that social media companies should have a more proactive approach to hate speech.   

“There needs to be better regulations on social media posts. There needs to be better ways of actually preventing extreme views of racism, homophobia, etc from being perpetrated. We live in a country of free speech, so it’s tricky,” Clyburn said