Is it time to put restrictions on social media?

The Russian government used social media to send misinformation to American voters with the intent to influence the election, with the hopes of getting Trump elected.

We know this.

We don’t know if President Trump was involved or if he obstructed the investigation that’s supposed to determine if he was involved.

And, we know the Nunes memo was an attempt to shut down the investigation.

Honestly, when I sat down to write the debater I put together what I’d hoped to be a balanced look at the shut-down-the-investigation versus keep-er-going discussion. Then I realized I’d missed the mark.

I don’t think the question is about whether or not the investigation should continue. Seems to me, the question is whether or not we should regulate social media in order to prevent Russian interference again.

Isn’t that more at the heart of the matter?

Should social media be monitored? Is there a right to free speech in this forum? Or should it have restrictions?

Social media is a private company and should not be limited.

announcements from President Trump are sometimes made through social media

Trump tweets:

My use of social media is not Presidential—it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL.

Trump’s tweets are official statements of the President of the United States, and will be preserved in The National Archives.

After all, Trump has used Twitter for big announcements, like his plan to ban transgender people from the military and the hiring of John Kelly. He has criticized the NFL, along with several senators, and the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico. He points out fake news, fake news outlets, and fake news reporters.

And, anyone with a Twitter account can follow the president and hear his official statements–that is, until they’re blocked.

Trump tweeted:

Sorry folks, but if I would have relied on the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS washpost or nytimes, I would have had ZERO chance winning WH

Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, a writer and legal analyst tweeted back:

To be fair, you didn’t win the WH: Russia won it for you.

She was blocked.

Trump tweets:

Congratulations! First new Coal Mine of Trump Era Opens in Pennsylvania.

Brandon Neely, police officer in Houston tweeted back:

Congrats and now black lung won’t be covered under #TrumpCare.

He was blocked.

Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute filed a lawsuit that argues Trump violated the users’ right to free speech because the blocks were based on Trump’s disagreement with the users’ messages. In places where the First Amendment applies—such as public forums—it bars the government or its officials from banning or blocking dissenting opinion.

But, of course, a privately owned feed is not the same as a public speech.

@realDonaldTrump is a personal account and not Trump-the-president

Trump’s account is owned by Twitter, and they make their own rules about who can use it. For example, they can remove hate speech (the First Amendment protects hate speech in a public forum).

The First Amendment and its clause protecting free speech prohibit only government action restricting it, not private action by those companies.

Social media should have its limits.

China does it

China’s “Great Firewall” is a virtual wall that protects Chinese Internet users from foreign threat coming via social media. It allows the Chinese to block problem-makers (from inside or outside their country) by banning certain topics–for example, resistance to communism won’t make its way into Chinese households.

illusory truth effect

The more a piece of information repeated to us, the more likely we are to believe it, which is what makes the amplification of social media so distorting.

“Even things that people have reason not to believe, they believe them more” if claims are repeated, Gord Pennycook, a Yale University psychologist, says.

here’s a study on the illusory truth effect

Experimenters ask participants to rate statements as true or false.

Then, hours, weeks, or even months later, experimenters bring the participants back again. On that second visit, some statements are new and some are repeats.

Participants are more likely to rate statements they’ve seen before as “true” — regardless of whether they are.

When you hear something for the second or third time, your brain becomes faster to respond to it. “And your brain misattributes that fluency as a signal for it being true,” says Lisa Fazio, a psychologist who studies learning and memory at Vanderbilt University. The more you hear something, the more “you’ll have this gut-level feeling that maybe it’s true.”

Read more here: The science behind why fake news is so hard to wipe out (Vox)

bots aren’t human

One important method that Russia used to influence our election was the dissemination and amplification of messages through the use of bots.

Bots, short for robots, do whatever job they’re programmed for, like firing off messages seconds apart, around the clock. They’re made by humans, but they’re not human—and therefore not subject to the same protections. Can’t we make use of this to shut down amplification of false information?

 

Read more here: Should Facebook and Twitter Be Regulated Under the First Amendment? (Wired)

Back to the News Made Simple article here.

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