By: Thomas Horvath
In America, we follow the Constitution that our country was founded on. The First Amendment of the Constitution grants the right to freedom of expression. This was a relatively new thing at the time for people other than the top one percent of the population. Now you could say whatever you wanted to about politicians, religions, and many other things. But since then, the government has made some changes to what we call free speech. If there are regulations, is there truly freedom of speech?
The idea behind freedom of speech sounds perfect in and of itself. In an ideal society, you should be able to say what you want and let your voice be heard. Of course, an idea this vague would have to be redefined in some ways. For instance, inciting harm onto other people is often considered to be an exception to the amendment, such as not being able to run onto public property and yell that you have a bomb. Most people can get behind punishing those who say things of that category. However, where things start getting complicated is with misinformation. If a gigantic news source states, without any evidence or merit, that the president robbed a bank, should they be punished for that? Every person will have a differing view on the debate, but things get more complicated with private companies added to the equation. If a private company silences a person with certain beliefs or endorses a factually incorrect news article, should the private company be allowed to do that? This debate was in the news very recently over Elon Musk buying Twitter. He claimed that he would have absolute freedom of speech on the website, but that lasted for about five minutes after he bought the app. Twitter is still banning people at its own discretion, and that’s okay for them to do so under the Constitution. Since they are a private company, it should be allowed to decide what is on its platform and what is not.
Following the notion that harmful speech will be controlled, what exactly does harmful mean? In the way that private companies use the term harmful, it’s just a fancy way of saying that we don’t like what this person said. For instance, if a company is run by people on a certain political spectrum, and someone says that they want to kill a politician that the company owners like, it will be taken down and labeled as harmful. If you say you want to kill a politician they don’t like, then it will not be removed. This could be interpreted as discrimination, but since it is a private company, nobody seems to care. However, if a bakery refuses to serve people of a certain race or religion, they will most likely either be sued or boycotted until they change their policies. And that is the way it was intended, if you don’t like what they say, you don’t have to support them. But, should the government decide what falls under freedom of speech and what doesn’t? That is up to you to decide.