INDIANAPOLIS — There are growing concerns, and some frustrations, over social media accounts and the tech companies deciding who to boot from the platforms. Or, in Parler’s case, dismantle for now at least.
Twitter and Facebook banned President Donald Trump and others from their platforms recently. This is not a violation of any person’s free speech.
“The right to free speech extends to individuals and applies to government intervention,” Paaige Turner, Ball State’s Dean of the College of Communication, Information and Media, said. “These companies are private entities, and they have the right to modify, adjust the products that they’re offering to the community.”
Turner explained we are at a crossroads in deciding whether social media is a private corporation or a public entity. Twitter and Facebook are both private companies.
“At some point, if we were to perhaps pursue a road where government regulated social media, we’re probably looking at an amendment to our constitution,” Turner said.
Experts, lawmakers and even tech leaders wrestle with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996. This law essentially protects tech companies and news websites from lawsuits if a user posts something illegal, and leaves them with the decision to remove it.
Asaf Lubin, an associate professor of law at the IU Maurer School of Law, explained there is room to consider changes to Section 230.
“There’s room to re-examine how and to what extent those old liability standards should remain in force as the internet has evolved and matured, and to what extent should the legislator be more upfront and outspoken about specific rules to guide transparency around how these terms of service are defined, grievance mechanisms to ensure that those whose users are blocked or accounts are deleted can still bring appeals or challenges to the corporations as well as subject matter,” Lubin said. “Kind of first-order rules about privacy, defamation, intellectual privacy violations all those areas of internet governance that the government could take a far greater role in setting which it currently is not doing.”
These are complex topics involving social media, government, and civil liberties we hold dear.
“We have never had to face this before,” Turner said. “We have never had to have these conversations before, unfortunately, we’re having them now at a time when the stakes are incredibly high.”