Posted by: Joseph Urtuzuastegui
As I was scrolling through my twitter account last week, I noticed a peculiar hashtag trending: #TwitterPurge. This piqued my interest, so I looked into it to discover that Twitter had embarked on a mission against “Russian-bot” accounts and accounts that circulated “fake news.” This caused a stir in the “Twitter-verse” among some conservative Twitter users who claimed the company was targeting their right to free speech. (Washington Times Twitter Purge) These twitter users were so outraged that some have filed lawsuits against Twitter claiming they had violated a law in California that protects free speech in public spaces, but this law has never been applied to social media or the internet. With these interesting ideas in mind I wanted to dive a little deeper to determine whether there is such a “free speech” right when it comes to what can be tweeted into the “Twitter-sphere” and whether it should be applied to social media in this case.
The First Amendment is a cornerstone of the founding of the United States, and it reads that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech….” (U.S. Const. Amend. 1) There is no denying the right to free speech given by the US Constitution is one of the most important, there is a reason it is first, but it does not take a legal scholar reading the text to determine that the right to free speech is not an explicit right in all circumstances. Interpretation of these words are vital and looking to the exegesis meaning can allow a person to conclude that the founding fathers were trying to limit Congress from silencing the people, and the laws of Congress shall not keep a person from speaking their truths whether it be about the government or not. But, this interpretation approach is not always the best approach because by these principles, obscenity laws would be unconstitutional, so we must also look to the purpose of the Amendment. The Framers who came from an oppressive regime of England had the idea that a citizen should not be told by their own government what to say or believe, and the First Amendment has been the protection for all people. But again, this interpretation is saying what the United States Government cannot do, not what the likes of Twitter is allowed to censor. To break down what is protected in free speech, by this interpretation and many others, a person cannot be censored for free speech by the government or a state actor. We can rule Twitter out as the government, and they do not seem to be acting for the state in any capacity, so the First Amendment guarantee is not thrust upon them. This does not mean that our inquiry should end however, we can always dive a little deeper. Continue reading