Free speech: how far can it go?


Allison Cicholski

“He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!” said Donald Trump. 

   Trump tweeted this message a few days after Joe Biden won the 2020 Presidential election. What would have been general acceptance of Biden’s win, Trump ruined with a few tweets. 

 Trump isn’t the only one spreading fake news, many social media users post incorrect information daily. Social media allows people to voice their opinions freely, but is following the Constitution doing more harm than good? 

   The First Amendment in the Constitution says that Congress shall make no law “abridging the freedom of speech.” The fact that citizens are able to speak their minds is great, but how far does the first amendment go? Where does the line cross between acceptable and unacceptable speech? 

 Is it ethical for people to spread information even if that information is false? The Constitution doesn’t specifically say that any information is “off-limits” to share, but as a society, there have been indications of information that is inappropriate to share with the public. Also, some individuals faced consequences for the news they spread. Citizens aren’t the only ones; politicians are guilty too. 

   Donald Trump was banned from multiple social media platforms after various tweets he posted implying that the 2020 election was fraudulent. The misinformation about the election results caused stir-ups between Republicans and Democrats and convinced many that the election results were altered. 

This instance classifies under unacceptable speech. Trump caused an unnecessary commotion in the election and he suffered the consequences. Many will argue that the social media ban is unconstitutional because the ban violates the first amendment, but they haven’t considered what his speech caused. 

   Social media platforms should have the right to take action against false information online. Otherwise, false information can spread and cause chaos. We live in a generation where many believe what they read online, even though a lot of the information isn’t correct. 

 Not all social media sites fact check. 

   Not many Americans fact-check either. 

When someone tweets fake information, that tweet can be re-tweeted by others and a whole chain of people can be exposed to the lie. Misinformation can be easily spread on social media and easily believed by the public. 

   The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has defended his company for not censoring information from politicians. “What I believe is that in a democracy, it’s really important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying, so they can make their own judgments,” Zuckerberg said in December 2019. 

Even though Facebook isn’t censoring politicians, the site is hiding messages about false information on voting. Unfortunately, politicians can find a loophole around those actions. Since speech by politicians isn’t hidden, politicians could easily present fake news about the election or anything else on Facebook without having the risk of the message taken down. 

    If citizens’ speech can be censored, what about politicians? Despite the title, politicians are still citizens and shouldn’t be exempt from fact-checking. 

 Everyone has the right to an opinion, but opinions can only go so far. Not all opinions should be shared with the world, especially without proper evidence to support them. Social media sites need to make executive decisions to limit exposure of false information to others. One post can do a lot of damage affecting what young and old generations believe to be true.