August 24, 2018
PRIVACY AND FREEDOM
Is Free Speech Being Stifled?
The leading social media platform has come under fire recently for limiting free speech, stirring up controversy that has pundits on both sides of the aisle considering the role of privacy in today’s digital age.
Facebook, long known to be operated by left-leaning, highly politically connected tech pioneers, is at the heart of an ongoing debate over its policies of limiting free speech—largely from and for conservative users. Conservatives have contended that the site suppresses right-leaning articles and commentary in its “Trending Topics” feature, a tool that allows Facebook users to see the most-read news of the day. The site’s operators have denied that claim but it nonetheless has caused its reputation to take a hit in conservative circles, with some estimating that views on Facebook among Republicans declined nearly 70 percent since news broke of its limiting free speech.
Since then, Facebook took steps to try to repair its image, including inviting leading conservative organizations to its Silicon Valley headquarters for a tour and talkback session. However, claims of its trend of limiting free speech, which have also plagued other tech giants like Twitter, have persisted and were even brought up during a recent Congressional interview of founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Not all conservative thought leaders, however, are blasting the site. A representative of think tank Heritage Foundation recently told Breitbart News that he thought the company would be within its rights if it had a policy of limiting free speech by conservatives. He argued that, as a private company, Facebook has the power to regulate what users see—and don’t see—and shouldn’t be subject to special government regulation, despite claims that sites like it and Google have had unprecedented influence over public opinion. However, he did caution that limiting free speech isn’t an ideal business model.
As Facebook continues to become one of the leading ways people around the world both connect with one another and stay informed about current issues, the conversation needs to continue about how to reduce the risk of limiting free speech without violating companies’ rights.
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