Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Free Speech Cop Out

By David Simms, Senior Contributor

When it gets down to it, the providers of social media platforms are ultimately the gatekeepers of cyber harassment. Nearly all cyber harassment occurs through these mediums whether it be Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google, and others. Technically, these providers have the power to bring internet offenses to a stop yet they do not. Granted, they are making some attempt at abating the problem but clearly not enough. All providers state in their policies that they take cyber harassment very seriously but are limited by what content can be removed from their sites. 

At the core of this argument is right to free speech. But in a vast majority of cases, free speech has nothing to do with the offenses being committed. The fact is, these providers have the ability to filter intentionally offensive and damaging material before it is published. They also have the ability to promptly remove any content from their sites. There seems to be an intentional obfuscation between free speech and outright abuse. Naturally if someone is the recipient of an online hate campaign, they would want the false and negative content to be taken down immediately. Because content can be seen by literally millions of people instantly, delaying any action to address removal or prevention, is just plain irresponsible. The obvious question becomes, ‘how would the owners and executives controlling these sites deal with abusive content posted about themselves or their families?’  The obvious answer would be, ‘very quickly and thoroughly’ and would likely never even be published in the first place.  Ask yourself if you have ever seen abusive cyber postings of anyone associated with a social media platform.  The fact is, those running these sites are in control of the content and would never allow false and harassing comments to remain.  Why the double standard?  Social media sites need to implement that same policy for all users that they see fit to implement for themselves.