social media

Know Your Rights with Freedom of Speech and Social Media

Freedom of speech is a term used in the Bill of Rights to protect from the government limiting or restricting speech

NBC Universal, Inc.

Just days following the riots at the U.S. Capitol President Trump was banned from multiple social media platforms, but some are concerned about that permanent ban impacting First Amendment rights as it pertains to freedom of speech.

So let’s break it all down:

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

When it comes to the public's relationship with social media some key reminders-it’s not your right to inhabit space on those platforms because they are all owned by private companies. When you sign up for a social media account, you agree to terms and conditions and if you violate those stipulations you can be suspended or even permanently removed from the sites altogether.

It’s not a violation of your constitutional rights to free speech, but you may not be following the guidelines you agreed to in those terms and conditions to use private social media platforms. The First Amendment is meant to keep the government from restricting free speech, not private companies.

"It would be a good idea for people to at least browse through the terms and conditions to see what they are getting into," said Rich Hanley, associate professor of Journalism at Quinnipiac University.

Hanley said the online platforms have simplified the reading of these stipulations over the years - here’s the language you need to look out for.

"No bullying, no harassment, no criminal activity and criminal activity includes threats. Threats of violence, threats against a person threats a group," said Hanley.

Ultimately, Hanley said it comes to down to the terms and condition, saying "if people start reading them I think they’ll understand they have no First Amendment rights there that speech is tightly regulated - they have the capacity to enforcement and that is the key part of terms and conditions that the platform has the right to police content that appears on it."

Contact Us