Social media c*ns*rsh*p

Government intervention interferes with freedom of speech

Nate Hollenbeck, Staff Writer

George Washington once said, “If [our] freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to the slaughter.” 

In recent years, an increasing number of big tech companies have taken action to limit and restrict what can be said on their websites, mainly Twitter and Instagram. From Instagram purging thirty meme accounts worth millions of followers overnight all the way to Twitter shutting down the president’s own account, the examples are everywhere. This is all perfectly legal as they are private companies with free reign over their platforms, but this “attack on freedom” is something Americans are bred to recognize and fear. However, the alternative of tech bigwigs controlling what you say–government intervention–should be feared much more. 

For social media to be truly free the government would have to intervene, taking away the business owners’ right to their property to protect the individual’s right to freedom of speech. The issue boils down to who we would rather control the Internet: corporate CEOs or the Federal Government. 

Social media is one of, if not the last, truly equal and free forms of media. Think of what could or would happen if the current administration’s Federal Communications Commission controlled what could be said on Twitter or the rest of the internet. 

Social media has been a haven for progressive movements since it came to the forefront of American society, and limiting one of the last places where anyone can truly speak freely is worrying. Those who oppose a free Internet might argue that if social media becomes government regulated, then at least we get to choose our elected officials to do said controlling. If left in its current state, CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Jack Dorsey (Twitter) are left to do as they please on their websites. 

Overall, however,  the potential for harm is much greater in government control. 

Look at the Arab Spring Revolution, which began in 2011. The people of Egypt, Libya, Syria, and other countries used social media to speak their minds, something they couldn’t do anywhere else. If the government of those countries could have censored and stopped this progress, The results could have been catastrophic. 

More recently, during the anti-government Hong Kong riots, we catch a glimpse at what could happen if the government takes control of the internet and social media. According to CNN, the Chinese federal government used “a partial or complete internet block to cut off protesters from their key organizing platforms”. This may seem impossible in America, but with rising political unrest, it’s not far from the realm of possibility. Now more than ever, the right to free speech via social media is crucial.  

Although your favorite meme page may be banned for seemingly no reason, or a political account you like may get suppressed by Twitter, at least you’re safe from tyranny. It’s what George would have wanted.