By: Taylor Giles
In an era where more college students value inclusivity over free speech, something needs to be done to protect the First Amendment (Giles).
Today’s college students are tomorrow’s industry leaders. Creating a space where the First Amendment can thrive will condition future leaders to place more value on the five rights the government has pledged to protect. After all, the entire advertising industry relies on the freedom of the press and freedom of speech outlined in the First Amendment.
Sadly, these statistics are not just isolated to college campuses. Society is rapidly valuing inclusivity over free speech; if the person agrees with the majority.
Twitter and Facebook have both come under fire for giving a platform for users to purchase ad space for advertisements that are not factually accurate. Twitter has even pledged to ban all political advertising ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Facebook is well known for stifling speech, especially in the firearm and self-defense industry. Gun shops across the country have fallen victim to their ads being pulled simply because the company is trying to advertise firearms (Briggs).
Twitter and Facebook have consistently hidden their liberty limiting policies under the guise of “fact-checking” by ensuring that false information is not spread throughout the world. But spreading false information is not inherently illegal. Only when that information incites violence does it then constitute a violation of the law (Holmes).
Following Supreme Court precedent, political speech is even more protected than commercial speech. And with account usage at an all-time high on social media, how can these organizations get away with banning political ads?
One side of the argument believes that because Facebook and Twitter are private organizations the companies have the ability to restrict speech on their sites.
However, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals does not agree. The court has ruled that Twitter and Facebook act as the “town square” that the founders originally implied with the creation of the First Amendment. There are too many users on social media for the platforms to be considered private organizations in the usual sense (Richards vs City of Petersburg). In other words, the legal principles are still the same, but the technology for which they are applied have changed over time.
In fact, the National Association of Attorneys General have also issued a statement, saying that people cannot be blocked by public accounts online because everyone has the right to be on social media (Kane).
So, who is right and who is wrong?
The problem with government, and in particular the court system, is that it moves at a snail’s pace. The advertising industry will likely not be given a final answer to this political question for years to come. Litigation takes time and so does legislation.
The First Amendment is one of the cornerstones on which the pillars of American society rest. Without it, America’s democratic republic collapses. With the First Amendment, we protect interests of minorities and majorities across the nation to ensure everyone has a voice.
As a society and an industry, we must ensure the longevity and importance of the First Amendment for generations to come. We must do this by ensuring that everyone has a voice and can heard; the entire advertising industry is built around the freedoms protected in the First Amendment.
Briggs, P. (2 March 2018). Is Facebook Blocking Posts About Guns? ConnectingVets.com. Retrieved from https://connectingvets.radio.com/articles/facebook-blocking-posts-about-guns
Holmes, K. (22 October 2018). The Origins of “Hate Speech”. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.heritage.org/civil-society/commentary/the-origins-hate-speech
Kane, B. (n.d.) Social Media is the New Town Square: The Difficulty in Blocking Access to Public Accounts. National Association of Attorneys General. Retrieved from https://www.naag.org/publications/nagtri-journal/volume-3-number-1/social-media-is-the-new-town-square-the-difficulty-in-blocking-access-to-public-accounts.php
Giles, T. (15 February 2019). Inclusivity on Campus. Lone Conservative. Retrieved from https://loneconservative.com/2019/02/15/inclusivity-on-campus/
Richards v. City of Petersburg. 15-2207. United States 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. 2016. FindLaw. Retrieved from https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-4th-circuit/1757698.html