SU Professor Challenges Recent "Censorship" by Social Media

Oct 16, 2020

Credit Creative Commons

 A Syracuse University Newhouse Professor is questioning decisions by Facebook and Twitter to limit access to an article that contained unverified sources and information about Joe Biden’s son.  

 


“Regardless of how you feel about the story, its sourcing, or even the politics behind it, it’s not a favored practice for many of us to have other people decide what we can and can’t read or view.” said Roy Gutterman, the Director of the Tully Center for Free Speech. “I’m kind of disappointed to see that this article was going to be blocked. I’m always in favor of letting consumers and citizens make judgements on their own.”

 

He says it’s not censorship from the strict legal definition because the social media platforms are legally empowered to make these decisions. Although they’ve largely avoided it for the past 20 years or so.

“Ever since these platforms began, they’ve taken a hands-off approach on content. But the issues we’re dealing with now are not things that we dealt with when Facebook and Twitter first started, so there’s been an evolution in the use and there’s going to be an evolution of how they deal with users who might not have the best motives or disseminate the best information.”

Gutterman says social media has had federal immunity from content posted by third parties, but says it appears Twitter and Facebook are leaning toward more moderation of content by tagging or labeling information that is clearly not true.  

At the same time, he says this might invite legal regulation that Twitter and others may not want.  Twitter changed its policy, saying it will no longer remove hacked content unless it's shared directly by hackers.  Instead of blocking links, the company will label them to provide context.