Ben Grunow & David Lin
On social media, such as Twitter, many conservative users and activists are being suppressed for speech and controversial comments. Among others, Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens, and Jordan Peterson have experienced social media blocking their views despite individuals on the left making many other similar comments that could be just as controversial. The silencing of certain users affects most people’s perspectives because it limits their view on certain topics and understanding different sides to an argument.
To clarify, many people confuse censorship, which is the government limiting the rights of people by suppressing publications or speech they deem destructive or obstructive to peace; with the right for social media websites to regulate the content that is featured on their platform. Social media platforms are private companies and as such need to personally remove posts and content that could be potentially damaging to the image of the business as a whole.
This situation is very controversial as many believe that the freedom of expression should not be restricted on a public site, but US law states that private companies are allowed to determine what information flows through their platforms. Mr. Frank Tupka, an AP Government teacher and a politically active individual, has his own idea on this situation and how it can affect us. “Any social media company has a right to determine what content users post and interact with. While the current political climate seems to have brought this issue out, these companies have always retained and utilized this authority over their services. When thinking about censorship from a legal perspective, the issue is whether government censors your voice. Private companies publishing newspapers and conducting broadcasts have long shared only information they deemed fit. Not every letter to the editor gets printed, every interview broadcast nor post left up,” says Tupka.
Many people believe there are two sets of rules when companies such as Twitter or Facebook are choosing to silence individuals. The main reason companies censor is usually based on hate speech or false information. Twitter has a very broad stroke on the basis of hate speech in their policy and could be considered general by some when put into action: “Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.” Many may state that this could be very effective, but the main problem is that there is a double standard to enforcing these rules
But many right-leaning critics are quick to point out that these companies don’t usually have any punishment towards left-leaning figures who put out hate speech. One example is the recent hiring of Sarah Jeong. Now a New York Times editor, the NYT and Sarah have been facing major backlash over old tweets Sarah stated. “White men are bull—”; “#CancelWhitePeople”; “oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men” and “f— white women lol.” She has also attacked the police, declared for the censorship of a fellow journalist, and believed the 2014 University of Virginia rape hoax, in which she then lashed out at white men and white college boys. Many conservative speakers are quick to point out the leftist double standard, in which many news sources and political activists have came out to defend Sarah for her tweets.
Despite all of this, Sarah was not punished by Twitter in any way. Candace Owens is a political activist and the Director of Communications at the conservative advocacy group Turning Point USA. Owens copied Sarah’s tweets in an attempt to expose the double standard of the New York Times and the left in general, she copied Jeong’s tweets but swapped out the words “white” and “men” for “black,” “Jewish” and “women.” Twitter acted quite quickly, banning Owens for 12 hours. Twitter cited her tweets about Jews as the reason for the ban. However, Twitter later reactivated Owens’ account, saying they “made an error”.
Overall, the use of hate speech does not only come from politics but from society as a whole. Society has established a culture of the spread of ridicule and misinformation on social media, without necessary repercussions. It may seem as though right wingers tend to “disperse” this more often than democrats but the reality is no one is exempt from this hates speech that stems from freedom of speech and expression especially on social media. The left and right have different opinions on topics that clash but don’t really find a middle ground because both arguments pose validities which don’t address the flaws in the others arguments. This could lead to heated debates and is essentially what caused the rift between political parties in our country. Mr. Tupka suggested we could all be more circumspect when posting and re-posting on social media. “Many times, I would guess that these individuals do not realize the true content or meaning of what they have posted. So many people just hit share or retweet rather than thinking about a post. Clearly hate speech has no place in a public forum and everyone could do a better job of selecting what the will or will not spread on social media.”