In recent years, the debate about social media censorship has become increasingly relevant with its pros and cons. What is really social media censorship? Every so often in the news, you’ll hear of someone having their account censored by one of the big social media networks for posting something that goes against the terms and conditions or, rather frighteningly, something that doesn’t break any rules but is against what the networks are all about. In other words, you can get banned for posting something that people disagree with or find offensive. People all across the political spectrum have fallen foul of social media censoring for expressing views that are ‘too extreme’. But is it right for social media networks to censor people?
Yes – Some posts can be problematic
The main arguments for social media censorship are that it will get rid of two types of content that some people find problematic: hate speech and ‘fake news’. The former is any kind of content intended to offend a particular person or group of people; the latter is incorrect information that’s promoted as being factual news. Admittedly, there’s a lot of both these content types online and on social media. These can indeed be harmful: people have injured others and even killed themselves because of hate speech directed at them, for example. Many think that social media networks have a responsibility to ensure there’s no kind of harmful posts of any kind being circulated. If posts can have real-world consequences, those consequences need to not be harmful in any way. For posts to produce non-harmful consequences, the posts themselves can’t be harmful. By ridding social media networks of negative, potentially harmful posts, the networks are preventing harmful things taking place in the real world.
No – What about free speech?
The biggest argument against social media censorship is that it restricts people’s right to free speech. Everyone should be able to express their opinions, ideas, beliefs and thoughts both in the real world and online. They should allowed to say whatever they want to say and not face any kind of censorship, simply because what they say is something that other people don’t want to hear. When you go online, you should be able to express yourself just as freely as you do in the real world. You shouldn’t have to find yourself being censored because your posts are in some way offensive or harmful. Free speech is an important concept and it’s something everyone should have whether they’re communicating in the real world or online. Sure, some things people say can provoke unfavourable reactions, but the solution isn’t preventing people from saying things, because that’s just wrong. How is it the social media networks’ responsibility to decide what we can and can’t say? Who put them in charge?
Social media is a part of everyday life for billions of us. However, it’s far from perfect. While it’s great at enabling us to communicate with one another, the problem of censorship is only getting bigger and more prominent. Growing numbers of people are finding their posts being censored or their accounts blocked altogether for posting content that, in one way or another, isn’t acceptable. It’s widely believed that social media shouldn’t be censoring its users. Free speech exists in the real world and it should exist in the digital world as well.