Do Tech Companies Have the Responsibility to Regulate Speech Online?
After the January riot at the United States Capitol, a variety of social media companies moved to tighten their rules regarding the material they would allow on their site in an attempt to prevent violent and hateful rhetoric from being used. Apple went so far as to remove Parler, a platform that the rioters had used in the lead up to the attack, from its App Store. Recently, Apple decided to allow Parler to be downloadable again, albeit with heavier restrictions. Actions such as these have sparked debate over the benefits and disadvantages of tech companies regulating online speech.
Those who support tech companies having the responsibility to regulate online speech argue that the operators of social media should ensure that hateful and violent rhetoric are not spread. They contend that events such as the Capitol riot are fueled by such rhetoric, and that it should be stopped through heavier regulations. They may also argue that freedom of speech does not mean that Americans can say whatever they want, because those words may spark violent actions, especially against groups that have faced oppression before.
Those who oppose tech companies having the responsibility to regulate online speech argue that while social media owners may have the right to take such measures, it is ultimately an ineffective action that harms discourse. They contend that in general, controversial rhetoric should be allowed to be published online so that it can freely discussed. This side may also argue that while violent rhetoric is wrong, it is ultimately a form of free speech that can best be countered with civil discourse, not regulations that will make the speakers of such inflammatory words feel ostracized.
So, what do you think? Do tech companies have the responsibility to regulate speech online? Students can answer Yes, they should; No, they should not; or a nuanced answer in between!
Note: Ideal Think the Vote responses include the following:
- Address the question asked in a thoughtful and meaningful manner
- Use cited facts and constitutional arguments when appropriate to support their answers
- Are expressed in cohesive sentences and are free of distracting spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors
- They address counterarguments and opposing concerns in a respectful manner
- They organize their answer in a manner that flows logically and reads clearly
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