The current political climate has lent itself to conversations about free speech, including what people are saying on social media in Phoenix and across the nation. How can we censor ourselves from conversations in which we don?t want to be involved? Can we police who is using social media? How far is too far when it comes to first amendment privilege? The answers are still unfolding in part because social media is relatively new media and with anything new comes a testing of the legal system.?
President Trump and Twitter?
We?ve never had to ask ourselves if the President can use social media on their own private account or if they can, does it count as an official statement, but we are now! President Trump is, at least at the time of the publication of this blog post, using Twitter to directly communicate with the American people.
There are two dynamics at play here.
The first is that his views are arguably not widely accepted, at least not on the left, so many people simply don?t agree with what he is saying. Those that do agree with him are getting in discussions, some heated arguments with the other side, and it?s making some of the media question the President. The other issue at play is the President?s right to interact on social media in a private account and it has the potential to redefine free speech.
The media will likely be arguing whether the President has the right to have a private account until he is out of office which makes for lively debate no matter which side you?re on. The question for the rest of us is how we protect ourselves and what ?protect ourselves? really means when it comes to social media. At this point, it?s personal choice and action.
Self-Policing Social Media?
We can?t control what anyone says on social media, no matter what their job title is, but we can protect ourselves. Social sites like Facebook and Twitter allow users to block and unfollow other users. That gives everyone a choice. You choose to listen to the banter or shut it off.?
Personally, I block and unfollow on a regular basis. From political and religious commentary to inappropriate images, I have a standard that I follow. It is my own standard and I don?t make an announcement or message people that I am unfollowing to tell them why. I keep my stress and interaction to a minimum and you can too.
Social Media and Free Speech?
People have the right to say what they choose on social media. They DO have free speech just as much as I have the right and ability to block them. For those that choose to talk about subjects that some of us, including prospective clients and employers, find controversial, they will have to face consequences. For ten Harvard students, they have to face that even though they shared images in a private group, they still got found out and identified, and are no longer able to attend Harvard.
The social media lesson? We don?t know how this will all shake out in court but we do know that what you say, no matter who you are, impacts your future in positive or negative ways and the choice is all yours. Choose wisely.