New Regulations in Social Media
By Parker Olsen
Social media is a gigantic part of many people’s lives, and it provides a connection and an outlet for creators. Social media platforms are open to all, and with that can come issues. Many big social media platforms have decided to start making changes as false information became a weapon in American politics.
In mid-2019 Twitter announced it would start to flag tweets from political leaders that did not follow the platform’s rules, such as violent speech. Later, in the middle of the 2020 presidential election, Twitter began flagging and sometimes removing posts that contained “false or misleading information intended to intimidate or dissuade people from participating in an election or other civic process.” Much of the reasoning for these actions were motivated by then-president Donald Trump, who’s tweets often used inappropriate speech or spread false information. The final straw came in early January as Twitter banned Trump’s personal account for having incited violence against the US Congress and Electoral College. Other platforms took this step too. Twitter also suspended his campaign account and deleted the new tweets from the official president's account, @POTUS.
Twitter took things even further and began banning many right-wing accounts that had been spreading false information and conspiracy theories. Twitter is said to have removed at least 70,000 accounts. Out of over 500 lawmaker’s accounts, 42% have lost followers. 200 of those that had losses were Republicans. According to USA Today, 37 Congress members, all Republican, have lost at least 10% of their followers. Facebook took this step as well, banning accounts that had spread QAnon conspiracy theories. This does not have an exclusively American impact, Twitter banned an Iranian account suspected to be tied to the country’s Supreme Leader after a post that was deemed threatening to former-president Trump.
The removal of accounts that were dubbed dangerous has been an action long called for, but only now has it happened due to the particularly divisive time we are experiencing. Most find the removals a good move, however, it is also being called “too little too late,” by many, including United States Senator Mark Warner (Democrat - Virginia). On the other hand, though, most Republicans (64% according to Pew Research) are against the then-president's ban, as well as other elected officials, from social media platforms. A large fear being what could happen with the future of social media and free speech. “Even though banned accounts may have been spreading false information, it’s still free speech,” commented Nick Turk (12).
The First Amendment says that Americans have the right to say pretty much anything, however, what you say can still have consequences. Social media companies are private, therefore they have the ability to decide what can and cannot be put out on their platform. These companies had been told to take these actions for months, if not years, so most are not worrisome about the possibility of overuse of this power.