Despite denying the allegations made by Twitter, conservative radio host Alex Jones was banned from tweeting for seven days. The social media giant claims that Jones violated their policies surrounding abusive posts when Jones allegedly called for violence towards the media. Jones adamantly denies these accusations.
On his show InfoWars, Alex Jones addressed the week-long Twitter ban by saying, “They took me down because they don’t want me to have a voice”. This ban from Twitter comes just a few weeks after other media giants such as YouTube, Facebook, Spotify and Apple all limited Jones’ show on their platforms.
It seems many internet platforms are abandoning the notion of allowing free expression on their sites without close monitoring. Santa Clara University has an Internet Ethics Program that has addressed this issue. The program sees that many platforms and companies are no longer attempting to remain neutral in the issue. Instead, they are beginning to take a stand against what they see as harmful speech, similar to how all of these social media platforms went after Alex Jones. This moderation from the platforms is new and may change over time.
The United States is not the only country where internet platforms are having to make big decisions about regulating speech. The issue is taking form in other languages and places around the world as well. Some people have found a link between Facebook comments and violence in some places such as India and Myanmar in recent years. Reuters recently reported that negative comments about the Rohingya, an Islamic minority group in Myanmar, were found throughout Facebook.
More and more people are asking social media platforms to curtail the offensive speech on their websites before it leads to violence.
As a student of decision-making, Ming Hsu is trying develop standards against which certain forms of speech can be ruled to have potential harm in the real world against people in the United States and across the world. Hsu acknowledges that there are no objective standards right now for social media giants like Twitter to use in determining whether certain speech is potentially harmful.
With no objective measurement, Hsu says that common sense is showing its fragility. Social media companies are known for reworking their services and products even years after being released. Still, this is a relatively uncharted territory where platforms are trying to balance between freedom of expression and reducing the harm that could be done.