In honor of Bill of Rights Day celebrated next week, we’re looking at the issues surrounding free speech and social media. Since the founding days of our country, free speech has been a cornerstone of American democracy. While most Americans celebrate free speech as a vital component of civic discourse, their interpretations as to the extent of that right can differ significantly. Many dislike the idea of censorship in any form, while others insist, for example, on moderation of online and social media platforms.
Around the world, who can speak, who gets heard, and who makes the rules are critical sources of power. More and more, in the digital age, social media platforms play an integral role in deciding the speech norms and values for our society.
Some critics say that the government should play a larger role in regulating social media platforms. Others believe it should be up to the companies who own the platforms to regulate their users’ content, as Facebook has begun to do in recent weeks, announcing six cases that its newly formed oversight board will rule on, most of them having to do with inflammatory and hate speech, while others deal with posts that include false information.
Following the presidential election last month, some have abandoned more familiar social networks like Facebook and Twitter for newer platforms such as Parler, which have less content regulation and afford their users more freedom. All of this shines a spotlight on the question of “How far does the First Amendment go in guaranteeing citizens the right to offend others and to disseminate false information?”
This week’s Current Event resources allow you to explore and promote meaningful discussion with your students about the latest news on free speech and social media.
- What, if any, are the necessary limits on speech in a free society?
- Is hate speech protected under the First Amendment? Is the broad dissemination of false information?
- What role should a social media platform play in regulating its content?
- What role should the government play in protecting or regulating speech online?
- What possible effects, if any, could social media regulation have in an era of increasing hate speech?
Audio & Podcasts:
Free Speech And Hate Speech: Another Reckoning For Social Media Companies (35 mins)
Parler Tops App Stores As Free-Speech Social Media (2 mins)
- Klar, Rebecca. “Twitter, Facebook to update hate speech moderation,” The Hill, 12-3-2020.
- Dabhoiwala, Fara. “The Free Speech Wars review – from censorship to cancel culture,” The Guardian, 12-3-2020.
- Fox, Chris, “Social media: How might it be regulated?” BBC News, 11-12-2020.
Hutchinson, Andrew. “Facebook Outlines Evolving Efforts to Combat Hate Speech in New Report,” Social Media Today, 11-19-2020.
Culliford, Elizabeth. “From hate speech to nudity, Facebook’s oversight board picks its first cases,” Reuters, 12-1-2020.
Bell, Karissa. “‘Free speech’ social networks claim post-election surge,” Endgadget, 11-11-2020.
- Polgar, David Ryan. “To Survive, Social Media Needs Better Governance,” BuiltIn, 11-18-2020.
Mackinnon, Rebecca. “How the Biden Administration Can Tackle Social Media Regulation Without Chilling Free Speech,” Slate, 12-4-2020.
Ness, Susan. “Platform Regulation Should Focus on Transparency, Not Content,” Slate, 12-2-2020.
- Dans, Enrique. “Parler, The Last Bastion Of Free Speech On The Internet (Hint: It’s Not),” Forbes, 12-4-2020.
The Week — Political Cartoons
Resources for using Political Cartoons in the Classroom:
- Cartoons for the Classroom– Understanding Political Cartoons
- How To Analyze a Political Cartoon
- Political Cartoon Analysis
Announcing the Oversight Board’s first cases and appointment of trustees — Facebook Oversight Board, 12-1-2020.
Study: Countering hate on social media — Santa Fe Institute, 11-20-2020.
- Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship — 5-28-2020.
- Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
Maps & Timelines:
- The Rise of Social Media — Our World in Data
- Most Popular US Social Networking Apps Ranked by Audience
- The Consequences of Online Hate Speech — Common Sense Education
Lesson Plans regarding Media & News Literacy (general):
Media Literacy Resources – Newseum
News & Media Literacy Lessons – Common Sense Education
Media Misinformation, Viral Deception, and “Fake News” – University of Wyoming
Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News – New York Times Lessons