Call for Comments: Social Media and Free Speech

From Hannah: At the end of March (so basically, an entire decade ago) we released our episode “News By Meme,” which dealt with how social media spreads news and the consequences with this — especially content that is inaccurate. Briefly in that episode, we discussed the policies social media companies like Facebook are adopting to stop the spread of fake news. But anyone who uses Facebook for five minutes probably can speak to the mixed results of reporting fake news to the company. And, despite these efforts, Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview that will air in full Thursday, “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth.” (His usual stance.) This is in response to the clash between Twitter and its most prominent user (who should be doing his job but obviously isn’t). I am, of course, referring to Twitter fact-checking Tweets that misrepresented the relationship between voter fraud and mail-in voting on Tuesday:

(Following Twitter, I would like to supplement this post with facts about mail-in ballots.)

The added flag suggesting users “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” didn’t go over well. In response, the White House has announced an executive order that seeks, in the name of “free speech,” to limit social media companies’ control over user-generated content (full text by CNN). There have already been critiques of the order, as well as Twitter’s unequal application of fact-checking on the lies of this serial tweeter, in particular.

So we want to do a sequel of sorts to our original show, to talk not just about the potential effects of this order but to also clarify what freedom of speech means, when it applies, and how that plays into the ethics of social media use and regulation. It’s admittedly very annoying to talk about this because of one man’s fragility, but there are issues from “News By Meme” worth revisiting, as well as new questions about how we use social media to communicate.

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