Censorship and Compromise

   We live in a country founded on the principle of free speech. In the very first amendment of the United States Constitution, our right to freedom of speech is protected. It is there where that basic human right is guarded and guaranteed to all citizens of the United States. 

   This freedom manifests itself in many forms: the press, peaceful protests, and social media. They all fall under the category of free speech. 

   However, ever since this freedom has been declared, however, there has been debate as to what should be protected under the guise of free speech, and what should be censored for the good of the public. 

   The most common example of this is the well known rule not to shout “bomb!” in an airport. If you do so, you will likely be questioned by airport security, and possibly even end up on the “no fly” list. In this scenario, someone fighting for free speech might make the argument, “There was no bomb, and no one was hurt, they should have the freedom to say what they wish.”

    In a counter argument, the opposing side may offer the point that while no one was physically harmed, yelling something like that could disrupt the peace and possibly incite a riot. Therefore, to protect the people, those who do so are punished. 

   Recently, this same argument has been brought about over social media. Some argue that social media sites are publishers, and therefore should monitor the content posted on their sites. Others argue that publishers have no right to censor content, because the people have the right to freedom of expression. 

   In my opinion, social media sites have the responsibility to censor content that may be deemed harmful. While for some, social media can be an outlet for creativity and expression, for others it is a petri dish for cyber bullies and misinformation. 

   With its rise in popularity, social media such as Instagram and Facebook have readily become a source for quick updates on news. As helpful as this feature is, it is harmful just the same. Any lies and misinformation can spread like wildfire. Although I do not believe that these posts should be censored, I believe that social media sites should employ fact checking personnel to monitor content and place warnings on posts they may deem false. 

   Fortunately, Instagram has recently implemented this feature. While it is not widely spread yet, some posts with misinformation, especially those discussing false evidence on Covid-19, have a warning regarding them as false. With this new feature, the risk of inaccurately marking a post as false is still a possibility. With this in mind, Instagram adds sources and reasoning to any post deemed false. This will help maintain the reliability of the feature. As time goes on, it is a possibility that this will become more common, and hopefully spread to other platforms as well. 

   The other main dispute in social media lies with harassment and bullying on media platforms. All over the internet, faceless, nameless, untrackable people give endless amounts of hate to innocent people. An analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August found the suicide rate among teenage girls ages 15 to 19 hit a 40-year high in 2015. Between 2007 and 2015, the rates doubled among girls and rose by more than 30 percent among teen boys. These statistics prove that there is an obvious problem that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, the solution is not that simple.

   As terrible as my solution sounds, I believe that these should not be censored. Due to the vast amount of social media users, it would be impossible for each post and every comment to be monitored closely to detect bullying or harassment. Thus, a bot would have to be implemented. This would likely lead to unjust censorship, which I disagree with. 

   In my ideal situation, users should have the ability to report comments, which should be analyzed and deleted. For others, big name social media like Instagram and Facebook should offer programs to help teen mental health. 

   I believe that social media has been simultaneously a blessing and a curse. It allows people to freely express themselves, but this comes with its faults. In the end, however, there are always ways to compromise, and solve problems for the betterment of society.