There are 3.725 billion active social media users worldwide. The average American is on social media for two hours and three minutes a day. Social media platforms have guidelines that many users aren’t aware of and don’t realize how much the platform is able to control what is seen and posted.
Facebook’s community guidelines prevent physical violence and establish protection for its users. However, some of their other guidelines are focused on prohibiting the posting of what they perceive to be false information. Instagram states, “We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the different points of view that create a safe and open environment for everyone.” This statement from Instagram shows their viewpoint and opinion on what they think is best for their platform.
“I don’t believe in censorship,” said American history teacher Tara Tims. “I do believe that if somebody says something that incites violence against a person, that should be removed.”
Around the week of October 14, “The New York Post” was shut down on Twitter after posting an article featuring information found on presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden’s, personal laptop.
“I do appreciate that Twitter did modify its policies after that post...by later allowing the article to be shared,” said social media manager Lauren Comer, who has an educational background in journalism. “I think we are seeing a lot more of this in the last year or two compared to in years past.”
Most social media platforms have the ability to block and censor posts based on content. However, not many people are aware of this or the platform’s guidelines. Out of 22 freshmen, only 5 students with Instagram accounts have read the platform’s community guidelines. Without the knowledge of what social media has the authority to do, users may be unknowingly influenced. By limiting certain feeds, social media users are corralled into believing certain political and social philosophies which they may have otherwise disagreed.
“I have experienced that suppression,” said sophomore Natalie Gunnels. “My dad will send me political TikToks or political posts, and I can’t get to them because they were already censored by the media. It is so frustrating because it feels like they don’t have confidence in the American people to have their own thoughts and opinions.”
The hotly debated controversy over social media’s persuasive power has made it all the way to the U.S. Senate where the Senate Commerce Committee questioned Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey along with the CEOs of Facebook and Google about their moderation practices. Many content creators on these sites are questioning where they fit as the people that post on social media. Some of the common conversations they are having is, are these platforms meant for anyone to post whatever they want no matter if it’s controversial to what the popular opinion is? Or are they a publisher who has strict guidelines for the content that is posted to make sure no one is offended or discriminated against as long as it agrees with them?
“Back when the Constitution was created, the place for people to protest and express their thoughts was in the town square,” said Gunnels. “Today, our town square is social media. When our posts or tweets are taken down, bigger companies such as Twitter and YouTube are suppressing our freedom of speech.”
It is the responsibility of users to be aware of what they are signing up for as they continue to use social media on a regular basis.