How do you balance, or should there be a balance of regulating misinformation and concerns surrounding censorship?
A deeper look at the debate surrounding social media
According to the dove, more than 15-thousand videos were removed following a violation of youtube's community guidelines.
According to youtube, in a statement sent to newswatch 12, the conent was removed following three strcerns surrounding censorship.
I have been digging into this issue, with a goal of providing and sharing context to both sides of this debate.
I spoke with professor anam sinnreich at american university school of communications professor sinnreich specializes in whats called "political governance issues", which is the study of how the law intersects with technology and how that impacts our culture.
According to professor sinnreich, one of the challenges of living in a democratic society is that there are competing visions of what kinds of social goals are needed to make democracy work.
Sin-rick) one of those vision is in trine and the first amendment, and that's the notion that we should have a free press and we should have freedom of speech.
And that there's a marketplace of ideas and everybody should say whatever they think is right or true or good, and the best ideas will be debated and will rise to the top.
The other side of the argument in order to have a functional democracy, you need people to be informed.
So that they can vote and make a deliberative decision together and figure out what kind of a society they want.
And so you need to remove disinformation from the public sphere because you don't want people to make informed decisions based on wrong information.
As professor sinnreich says, the two goals are fundamentally at odds with each other.
What's changed in our modern world is the creation of social media.
What social media does is it exposes us to those divergent viewpoints and it creates an architecture that, um, is very different than the architecture of democratic debate.
The basis of the marketplace of ideas what professor sinnreich refers to as a kind of thomas jefferson model operates on the notion that the best ideas come to the top.
You might say that lizard people are, are running the world.
And i might say that economic inequity is a problem.
And then we debate and, you know, we come up with the solution that lizard people seems unlikely.
Economic inequity is a demonstrable truth.
Uh, so, um, my idea is better than yours and that rises to the top.
But the architecture of social media, as described by professor sinnreich doesn't bring the best idea to the top "it's one that rewards.
Uh, users and ultimately financially rewards companies for inspiring the greatest degree of emotional reaction, whether it's joy or outrage or fear, um, or excitement butted-- the most sensationalistic ideas rise to the top."
And that aligns with studies that have been done about social media in 2016 a study was done by professors at princeton it analyzed 376 million facebook users' interactions with over 900 news outlets and found that people tend to seek information that aligns with their views.
So with so much power and sway in our social systems where does the responsibility fall to regulate misinformation, if it should be regulated at all?
Is it on the consumer or is it on the platform?
One of the key questions that the courts keep coming back to over and over again is.
Does the first amendment prohibited private companies from regulating the speech that takes place on their communications platforms. and the answer is sometimes.
As professor sinnreich explains, courts have treated communication platforms in regard to the first ammndment based on size.
The more that a communications platform becomes something that everybody in society has access to and that everybody needs in order to go about their business.
Um, the more.
Uh, the more expansively the courts interpret the first amendment as applying to that platform.
The question then becomes is facebook, youtube and other social media platforms more like the postal service or telephone system, a publicly accessed good that everyone has access to and needs in which case the first amendment, uh, limitations on censorship would apply more strongly to it, or is facebook more like a, you know, like a gym or, or a movie theater where like a private entity owns it and invites you into it.
Right now, social media platforms are allowed to remove content as we have seen with the removal of "the dove's" videos, it is allowed to do so because it is considered a private company but that distinction is also being debated in court.
You have a justice clarence thomas, basically arguing that it's more like a public good and they should not have the power to censor, um, where, whereas you have.
Uh, you have other, uh, thinkers saying that it's, it's still private.
Um, that there's competition justice thomas' statements issued on april 5th regarding a case about former president trump blocking critics on twitter was thrown out justice thomas calling it "moot" since the former president is no longer in office, but the discussion of social media regulation being brought up in the supreme court increases pressure on lawmakers to change current regulations.
Its possible there could be a federal agency ceated for regulation similar to the fcc being established to govern broadcast.
The idea of setting up a federal agency devoted to internet communications or even social media communications is still