In Russia, calling the country’s invasion of Ukraine a war is a crime.
These authoritarian realities seem a far cry from the Wild West of American free speech, where people are protected under the law to criticize and smear public figures.
Maybe not under Twitter’s content policy.
US law protects Americans from government control of their speech, but lets private companies impose their own standards.
A law to fight against the “censorship” of social networks
It would be a shock for social media companies to suddenly adopt a First Amendment, almost anything goes attitude, Mary-Rose Papandrea told me. She is a professor of constitutional law at the University of North Carolina Law School and leads the university’s Promoting Democracy initiative.
“I think people who want to impose First Amendment doctrine on these private companies should be careful what they wish for,” she told me, pointing out that under First Amendment logic, Twitter could host pornography or obvious hate speech on its platform. .
Democrats, meanwhile, generally want books off school shelves as a matter of free speech and hate limits on what teachers can discuss with elementary students in Florida — but are also wrong. comfortable with the idea of Trump returning to Twitter.
“Americans are losing a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and express their opinions in public without fear of humiliation or rejection,” the editorial board wrote. from Journal.
The editorial itself was shamed and shunned as deaf.
Republicans are quick to call the social backlash to controversial statements a “cancellation culture,” but they were happy to pass a law in Florida literally rescinding Disney’s special government status. It was retribution for the company’s decision to publicly disagree with the Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” Act.
Silence the opinions of companies, but not their money
Will Disney learn the lesson that corporations shouldn’t comment on anything political pushed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis?
He can still quietly donate to political causes, an exercise in free speech — even for corporations — recognized by the Supreme Court.
New court could upend free speech precedent
It’s unclear how the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court will view these types of questions on social media.
Papandrea said what makes her most uncomfortable is that the court could fundamentally change our view that free speech allows people to criticize powerful public figures.
“It is feared that there is a growing number of judges who would be willing to overrule this fundamentally important historic opinion which protects the rights of all speakers to criticize public officials. That would be a dramatic change and a dangerous change.”
Freedom of expression in the aisles of the judges
Conservative Supreme Court justices are certainly under fire today for being on the verge of taking away the right to privacy and for women to obtain abortions, as established in Roe v. Wade from 1973.
But protesting a Supreme Court decision at least sounds like classic freedom of speech.
Roy Gutterman, director of the Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University, told me that the way we interact with speech is changing rapidly with access to more and different platforms for expression.
“But we’re also in a time where a lot of us just want to hear what we want to hear,” he said. “And we seek out news and information that we agree with, and we want to push away people that we disagree with.”
What people are willing to hear can begin to have more of an effect on their ability to say it.