Perspectives: How Might Laws Solve Big Tech's Free Speech Dilemma?

Headline Roundup August 4th, 2021

The question of how major technology companies like Google, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram gate-keep speech and information on their internet platforms is a divisive one, especially in the context of the First Amendment. People across the spectrum often disagree on what freedom of speech entails, and that debate has evolved into arguments about how free speech is encouraged or moderated online. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act currently protects internet companies from potential legal liabilities stemming from third-party content published on their platforms. Some of these companies have recently taken steps to flag and censor purported falsehoods regarding the 2020 election and COVID-19 pandemic, but have at times unjustly censored valid points in the process.

Many left- and right-rated voices agree that new laws need to be passed to solve Big Tech's First Amendment issue — but they disagree starkly on what those laws would do. Right-rated voices have called for restrictions on what content tech companies can censor; some also say tech companies should have their Section 230 protections stripped if they choose to become arbiters of truth. Many left-rated voices have instead advocated government regulations requiring tech companies to eliminate misinformation and disinformation on their platforms by moderating content more closely and deplatforming offenders.

From the Left

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JANUARY 2021: In the months leading up to the November election, the social media platform Parler attracted millions of new users by promising something competitors, increasingly, did not: unfettered free speech. “If you can say it on the streets of New York,” promised the company’s chief executive, John Matze, in a June CNBC interview, “you can say it on Parler.”

The giants of social media — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram — had more stringent rules. And while they still amplified huge amounts of far-right content, they had started...

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From the Center

AllSides reveals media bias and helps heal political polarization on free speech and other related issues, including campus speech, online censorship and hate speech.

Burst your filter bubble: understand perspectives and stances from liberals, conservatives, progressives, and everyone in between on free speech — explore fact checks, data, pro-con arguments and balanced news.

To do so, read more on our free speech Topic page.

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From the Right

Does the Constitution require Americans to accept Big Tech censorship? The claim is counterintuitive but the logic is clear: If you submit a letter to this newspaper, the editors have no legal obligation to publish it, and a statute requiring them to do so would be struck down as a violation of the Journal’s First Amendment rights. Facebook and Twitter, the argument goes, have the same right not to provide a platform to views they find objectionable.

Big Tech censorship has provoked interest in new civil-rights statutes—state laws that would bar the companies from...

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