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In Brief:

      • Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have come under fire recently for censoring conservative content.
      • Constitutional lawyers argue that this censorship is a flagrant violation of the 1st Amendment.

“…Freedom of speech is defended both instrumentally—it helps people make better decisions—and intrinsically—individuals benefit from being able to express their views… The consensus, as noted in a recent American Bar Association article, is that the activity of expression is vital and must be protected. Any infringement of freedom of speech, be it by public or private entities, sacrifices these values.

Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy. Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution. The freedom to express and debate ideas is the foundation for all rights as a free people.

In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, online platforms cannot hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet. This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power. They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators.

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“…When powerful private entities—particularly …news.. and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and others engages in censorship, individuals don’t get to participate in the marketplace of ideas and are not allowed the liberty to engage or participate— just like when a governmental entity engages in censorship. These powerful private entities can potentially limit, control, and censor speech as much or more than governmental entities… and…private censorship can be as harmful as governmental censorship….

…Two key justifications for robust protection of the First Amendment right to freedom of expression are the marketplace of ideas and individual self-fulfillment…

The first justification, the marketplace of ideas, is a pervasive metaphor in First Amendment law that posits the government should not distort the market and engage in content control. It is better for people to appreciate for themselves different ideas and concepts…

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Individual self-fulfillment, often associated with the liberty theory, posits that people need and crave the ability to express themselves to become fully functioning individuals. Censorship stunts personal growth and individual expansion…

In his opinion for the Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy elaborated that the expansion of social media has contributed to a “revolution of historic proportions.” Id. at 1736. In other words, social media networking sites have become the modern- day equivalent of traditional public forums..”


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