Literacy and Liberty

Investigative Project
Posted by: , November 7, 2018, 5:56 pm
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The internet has completely transformed communication. Ideas can be expressed, spread, and accessed on a global scale, instantaneously. This has allowed for the development of an interconnected and informed global mass. However this is not an inherently good thing, as social networks and internet forums, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, are discovering. By necessity, some opinions that will be spread on these networks will be perceived as “disagreeable” or even dangerous. “Fake news”, conspiracies, hate speech, calls for violence, and other content which are considered by many to be toxic and divisive, pose a problem for platform providers. In many cases, these platforms choose to address the problem by censoring such content and silencing the voices that spread it.

Unfortunately, it is not always clear what constitutes hateful or extreme rhetoric. The result of this is that many users which simply seek to promote alternative perspectives are being cast in the same lot as those who produce far more radical content. When measures normally intended to stifle extremists are applied to more moderate voices, it is perceived by affected persons and their followers as constituting biased political attacks on their right to free-speech and their ability to participate in the free-market of ideas. This runs counter to the ideals of inclusivity many such internet platforms are based on.

In light of this, we must ask ourselves difficult questions such as, what is free-speech, what constitutes “intolerable” rhetoric, and how far do the protections of the First Amendment go?