Twitter and The Modern Day Freedom Of Speech

Jacob Gosz, Reporter

Twitter is one of the most popular social media platforms in the entire world. Recently, Tesla owner and billionaire Elon Musk purchased Twitter for $44 billion dollars on October 27, 2022. Since then, he has made many comments on free speech and how his new Twitter changes, which includes a $7.99 verification fee, will help the common person speak and share their opinion freely over politicians, celebrities, and journalists on their platform. More common with stars such as Kanye West, Donald Trump and Kyrie Irving, this new free speech movement has been ever more so popular.

The free speech movement starts with the First Amendment in the Constitution which states, “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.” This amendment is what allows Twitter to exist, which is why every citizen in the United States has the ability to share their opinion without persecution, as long as they abide by Twitter’s guidelines.

Twitter’s guidelines specifically says, “You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.” This statement is what has since banned many influential celebrities on Twitter’s platform. Twitter banned Donald Trump off their platform on January 8, 2021 due to quote, “the risk of further incitement of violence.” Many Trump supporters were upset and said that the banning was unfair and that he has a right to speak his mind. 

Disregarding political parties or preferences, everyone has the freedom of speech. While this is true, there needs to be a more clear and decisive definition about what it means to speak freely. The Merriam Webster’s definition of free speech is, “The right to express information, ideas, and opinions free of government restrictions based on content and subject only to reasonable limitations (as the power of the government to avoid a clear and present danger) especially as guaranteed by the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The definition above clearly states that free speech does not include threats towards the government or the incitement or breaking of Federal Laws. 

The idea that a U.S. citizen can express their political opinion has been around since the very first president, George Washington. He believed that political parties are bound to exist, but that they would lead to despotism, or the oppressive power expressed by the government. In today’s society, political parties are becoming more and more polarized due to the fact that social media platforms like Twitter exist. The ability to speak online and share opinions to others is beneficial to many because of the fact that there is so much information and knowledge that can be read with the tap of a couple buttons; which is why misinformation can easily spread. 

Twitter works in a sort of hierarchical manner where creators can be verified with a check mark based on popularity. This business model promotes growth and competition, but does not benefit the average consumer because of control. Verified creators have control and influence, but most important of all, what Americans see and read. Social media acts as a hub where journalism, politicians, celebrities, and the freedom of speech meet. Journalism and truth play a very important role in how narratives and stories can be given to an audience.

An example of a celebrity who has abused their use of power on Twitter would be Kanye West. The award winning hip hop artist has recently expressed many controversial anti-semetic comments on Twitter, which has gotten him brand deal cancellations with Adidas and Balenciaga. The connection between Kanye’s tweets and his backlash have one thing in common, how he used his first amendment. Kanye West’s tweets were deemed derogatory and uncalled for because of their serious offense to many people. He currently sticks to his word and says that he has the right to his opinion. 

Another example of a famous influencer abusing social media power would be Kyrie Irving. The Brooklyn Nets basketball player promoted an anti-semitic film called Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America. He was suspended from the NBA for five games minimum and asked to publicly apologize for the actions in order to return. Completing those six steps is very unlikely for Kyrie which is why his entire career is currently up in the air.

The real change that needs to be made on Twitter is how consumers take in correct and incorrect information. The average consumer should look for trustworthy sources and search a variety of sources to get the truth. Also, people who choose spread violence, racism, and anti-semitism on social media should be banned off of Twitter. There is a clear difference between speaking freely and speaking with harm towards others.