Freedom of Speech

Due to innovative technology, the first amendment is seemingly beginning to evolve as Emerging Media has created several issues with what people are allowed to say on the Internet. In 1996, the Supreme Court case Reno Vs. ALCU dealt with two provisions within the Decency Act of 1996. The objective of this Act was to protect minors from harmful content over the Internet, but when this Act was passed the Court felt it was limiting, “Freedom of Speech”. This was the first incident where freedom of speech and the Internet collided and created a large amount of confusion for what is allowed to be posted over the Internet. The Internet has allowed for individuals to have a voice and express themselves though the web. Sadly, when you look at the bigger picture behind the Internet, millions of people are being bullied and threatened which has caused several platforms of social media to censor and restrict people from posting what they want. Technology is wonderful thing, but when users take advantage of its main purpose, to harm another individual the first amendment isn’t necessarily on your side anymore.

Several of us are victims of social media harassment and have experienced or witnessed users take advantage of others behind a computer screen and lash out about an individual’s religion, race, and sexual preference. Social media has caused so much internal trauma to individuals that people are taking their lives due to overly aggressive users on various social media outlets who are bullying other users. In 2011, Jamey Rodemeyer a 14-year-old freshman from Buffalo, N.Y., was a victim of online bullying and received death threats about his sexual preferences and resulted in him to commit suicide. The Amherst Police Department’s Special Victim Unit opened the case to find punishments for the students who harassed Jamey. One of anonymous students on Twitter went as far to say, “JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!” while another read, “I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it 🙂 It would make everyone WAY more happier!” Since this incident occurred Twitter has implemented a strict abuse policy which states, “Engaging in targeted abuse or harassment on Twitter is a violation of the Terms of Service”

jeff chase

These tweets are disturbing, and to be honest bullying on the Internet has become increasingly more serious. According to stopbullying.gov, The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey finds that 15% of high school students (grades9-12) were electronically bullied in the past year. Unfortunately, due to the increase use of technology in kids’, they’re growing up in a world with technology that is constantly evolving. Kids are growing up in a world that is centered on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and these social media outlets give them access to so much hurtful things such as Pornography, Cyber Bullying, and overall insecurities.

Social media platforms as mentioned above have begun to take actions in censoring what people are able to publish on the Internet. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are three social media platforms that regularly censors users and work toward a safe interactive experience. Instagram for example has begun to censor what users are able to publish on their site. Recently, Chrissy Teigan and Rhianna posted semi-nude images that revealed too much and it caused Instagram to take down their post. They were outraged by the incident for they felt it was unfair and violated their right. Facebook, another example of censorship has recently allowed for users to report content or even block content that is perceived as harmful or threatening. Although these various social media outlets have tried to limit what users are able to post they most times are unsuccessful due to users not caring and posting anyway.

When it comes to the Internet and its interaction with various social media outlets, is it possible for the Internet to regulate and censor what users are allowed to publish?

Jeffery Chase

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University

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