Free speech and freedom of the press are basic rights of our democracy. However, with the advent and spectacular growth of social media, these rights are being reexamined, reinterpreted and challenged like never before.
Social media companies are facing a dilemma as they grapple with the correct balance between allowing their users to freely share their content (whether factual or not) versus exercising their right to restrict access when they consider that content to be grossly false, obscene, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable, according to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. In recent years, our country has become more polarized along partisan lines in terms of whether questionable content (including hateful speech and ideological biases) is sufficiently offensive and harmful as to be removed versus whether that content should be protected by “free speech”.
Here are some questions to ponder:
• Should Section 230, which was enacted in 1996 when the Internet was in its infancy, be repealed or modified?
• What responsibility does a social media company have for monitoring truthful vs false content on the one hand, and objectionable content on the other? Who should decide?
• What is the proper balance for social media companies to strike?
• How do you balance the right of free speech vs. spreading falsehoods? Is there a point when “free speech” is harmful and destructive to society?
• What is the proper role of government?
• How much are the issues of freedom of speech and freedom of the press connected to the deep divisions we see in our nation?
Here is a backgrounder on Section 230 from WIRED: Finally an Interesting Proposal for Section 230
Please join us for a spirited discussion of this topic. Exercise your “free speech” right!
Participants must register by February 16th to receive details on joining the discussion.
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