Written by: Alex Ayers
Congress shall make no law [ . . . ] 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.” The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, outlining our possibly most cherished liberty, ensures all Americans have the ability to speak their mind, whether by spoken word or written dissemination, with no fear of retribution by the government.
At the time the First Amendment was written, a person’s ability to share their thoughts was limited. With a printing press, copies could easily be shared among those interested in reading them, and others shared their thoughts in the public square nearest to them to those willing to listen. As technology changed, the different media allowed more reach, but the individual had always the choice of whether or not to listen. With the rise of the internet, public message boards and social media are the new public square, with a unique twist: the “public” square exists as the property of private businesses. No law exists protecting the rights of individuals to share their thoughts using property owned by someone else, effectively allowing the platform to make the rules on what is and isn’t allowed. This ability stems from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
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