Student Question

Should people be allowed to say and post whatever they want on social media? Why or why not?

Quick answer:

In the US, free speech and expression are protected rights. The law protects people from government censorship, but social media platforms are run by private companies who can filter what goes up on their websites as they please. Generally, people feel that posting on social media is fine, but posts that contain hate speech, false information, or forms of cyberbullying should not be allowed.

Expert Answers

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Social media has become a way of life in our society. We stay connected with friends and family who live far away, send photos to loved ones, and even professionally network using social media platforms. Social media has also become a key marketing tool for millions of companies, stores, and restaurants around the world. But the social media boom has also brought some challenges. Many people wonder just what is allowed to be posted.

The Constitution promises US citizens the freedoms of speech and expression. Of course, these rights have been adapted to cover social media and other online platforms. However, in recent years, some major social media players have cracked down on restricted content on their websites. Granted, they are private companies, not the government, so they can censor what goes up on their sites as they wish. Their actions raise an important question about whether people should be allowed to post whatever they want on social media.

One thing sites have cracked down on is false information. From fake articles, to comments from people who falsely claim to be experts, to scams and hoaxes, false information can be floating almost anywhere on the internet. But this doesn't make it any less harmful. Facebook, in particular, has launched a war against fake information on its site. Instagram attached a pop-up to certain hashtags encouraging users to seek out information from reputable sources. False information can be misleading and harmful; it can take advantage of people or frighten them. The general consensus is that it should not be allowed on social media.

Hate speech and cyberbullying have also found their way onto social media. For example, the FBI has said that numerous terrorist groups have websites or social media that they use to recruit people. Sometimes, people commenting on posts can be quite vicious toward one another. Hate speech and cyberbullying, like false information, can be incredibly harmful. Studies have shown that people tend to feel more empowered to say whatever they want when they're behind a screen and may even say things they would never say in person. Hate speech and cyberbullying, with their immense harm and violence, should not be allowed on social media.

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