Social Media Responsibly & Terms of Service.

Terms of Service. Most of us blow right past them, but they established the legal rights of the social networks. Social networks want you to post often. It is how they get content to sell. Of late, the primary issue is the balance between freedom of speech and freedom to lie.

The balance between freedom of posting and controlling disinformation seems to be an impossible balance to reach. “Terms of service” address this balance in two ways. First, by what the social network will allow, and second, how it protects itself.

After being thrown off most social media platforms, Donald Trump has finally announced an association with a new social media outlet called Truth. Days after launching, Time evaluated its terms of service (Mccluskey, 2021).

The site reserves the right to terminate accounts and even pursue civil suits against people that, “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site. … In addition to terminating or suspending your account, we reserve the right to take appropriate legal action, including without limitation pursuing civil, criminal, and injunctive redress,” It is assumed that the “us” means Trump. A civil action is not an option on other social media.

Challenging expression

In addition, the site reserves its protection through Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, This section protects many communication providers from harm caused by its users. It is a practical concern. If I plan a murder on the telephone, the telephone company cannot be sued for the murder. In the same way, the social media platform cannot be held liable for the lies of its users. Trump called for the repeal of the protection but has the right to use it to his advantage as long as it exists.

Which out the protection of Section 230, the Social media company would be forced to edit content for accuracy before content is published. If you had a bad meal at the local restaurant and you wished to complain. Even if you posted a picture of your dinner, it might have to be verified before publication.

Other media outlets do not have the protection of Section 230 and still make money. News programs, magazines, and newspapers are all responsible for their content, but the public commentary on this content is often limited or not present.

Social media is built on the concept that there is value in allowing individuals to express their ideas no matter how wrong or banal they may be.  Lately, it has been the wrong ideas that have gotten the public ire. 

What is the line we want to draw for social media?  How do we create a platform that allows public exchange yet hold the platform responsible for the content we hate? How do we expect social media to edit content yet scream censorship when they do? The balance is the basis for the First Amendment.

Mccluskey, M. (2021). What’s Allowed on Trump’s New ‘TRUTH’ Social Media Platform—And What Isn’t. Time.

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