PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Social media networks took center stage this weekend when they suspended President Donald Trump’s accounts. Twitter and others cited several posts from the president that they say incited the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Now the debate on how these social media networks should be regulated has finally entered the mainstream.
It’s been lurking for years, the discussion of how privately-owned social media corporations like Twitter and Facebook should police their websites for objectionable or violent content.
“We have left too much in the hands of the corporations themselves, and they can doing things on the whim,” Dr. Frank Farley, a phycological studies professor at Temple University, said.
Because there are no regulations for social media companies, Farley says small numbers of people are allowed to subjectively determine what can and cannot be posted.
“Your morality might not be the same as mine my morality,” Farley said. “Therefore, the people need to speak on this issue. It just can’t be the individual corporations in their boardrooms making these decisions.”
“Should they have the power to decide who should and should not be heard rather than representatives that have been democratically elected?” Laura Little, a Temple University law professor, said. “Is Twitter violating the constitution when it says Trump cannot use its platform anymore? And the answer is, it’s a little ambiguous because they’re a private entity and not the state government.”
Google and Amazon removed the conservative social media app Parler from their servers until they say the developer creates a monitoring system for objectional content. Apple removed Parler from the App Store.
Both Farley and Little see this as an example of capitalism at work rather than censorship, one private corporation controlling another. However, both also think that regulation in this space is not only necessary but a matter of time. The question is, just how much time?
“This is an opportunity to maybe clarify some of the real problematic issues in terms of what needs to be nailed down, in terms of the reach of the constitution and the reach of the power of social media,” Little said.
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