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Censorship in Social Media

  • Categories: Censorship Effects of Social Media Social Media

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Published: Apr 29, 2022

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Works Cited

  • Anat, Z. & Fernadez, W. (2016). Countering violent extremism on social media: An analysis of communication campaigns. International Journal of Communication, 10, 5406-5423. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/5345/1718
  • DeNardis, L., & Hackl, A. M. (2015). Internet fragmentation: An overview. SSRN Electronic Journal.
  • Flew, T. (2015). Communication and social media. Oxford University Press.
  • Gibson, R. (2019). Freedom of speech and the limits of social media censorship. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/freedom-of-speech-and-the-limits-of-social-media-censorship-125726
  • Gillespie, T. (2018). Custodians of the internet: Platforms, content moderation, and the hidden decisions that shape social media. Yale University Press.
  • Hasen, R. L. (2016). Facebook and the new face of media regulation. The University of Chicago Law Review Online, 83, 37-43. https://lawreview.uchicago.edu/sites/lawreview.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/83_u_chi_l_rev_online_37.pdf
  • Howard, P. N., Agarwal, S. D., & Hussain, M. M. (2011). When do states disconnect their digital networks? Regime responses to the political uses of social media. The Communication Review, 14(3), 216-232.
  • Jørgensen, H. (2018). Facebook and democracy: In defence of an extended understanding of freedom of expression. Information, Communication & Society, 21(10), 1388-1403.
  • Mossberger, K. (2008). Virtual Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide. Georgetown University Press.
  • Stevenson, J. (2000). Freedom of speech: The history of an idea. Penguin.

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argumentative essay on social media censorship

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Regions & Countries

Americans and ‘cancel culture’: where some see calls for accountability, others see censorship, punishment.

argumentative essay on social media censorship

People have challenged each other’s views for much of human history . But the internet – particularly social media – has changed how, when and where these kinds of interactions occur. The number of people who can go online and call out others for their behavior or words is immense, and it’s never been easier to summon groups to join the public fray .

The phrase  “cancel culture” is said to have originated  from a relatively obscure slang term – “cancel,” referring to  breaking up with someone  – used in a 1980s song. This term was then referenced in film and television and later evolved and gained traction on social media. Over the past several years, cancel culture has become a deeply contested idea in the nation’s political discourse . There are plenty of debates over what it is and what it means, including whether it’s a way to hold people accountable, or a tactic to punish others unjustly, or a mix of both. And some argue that cancel culture doesn’t even exist .

To better understand how the U.S. public views the concept of cancel culture, Pew Research Center asked Americans in September 2020 to share – in their own words – what they think the term means and, more broadly, how they feel about the act of calling out others on social media. The survey finds a public deeply divided, including over the very meaning of the phrase.

Pew Research Center has a long history of studying the tone and nature of online discourse as well as emerging internet phenomena. This report focuses on American adults’ perceptions of cancel culture and, more generally, calling out others on social media. For this analysis, we surveyed 10,093 U.S. adults from Sept. 8 to 13, 2020. Everyone who took part is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the  ATP’s methodology .

This essay primarily focuses on responses to three different open-ended questions and includes a number of quotations to help illustrate themes and add nuance to the survey findings. Quotations may have been lightly edited for grammar, spelling and clarity. Here are the  questions used for this essay , along with responses, and its  methodology .

Who’s heard of ‘cancel culture’?

As is often the case when a new term enters the collective lexicon, public awareness of the phrase “cancel culture” varies – sometimes widely – across demographic groups.

In September 2020, 44% of Americans had heard at least a fair amount about the phrase 'cancel culture'

Overall, 44% of Americans say they have heard at least a fair amount about the phrase, including 22% who have heard a great deal, according to the Center’s survey of 10,093 U.S. adults, conducted Sept. 8-13, 2020. Still, an even larger share (56%) say they’ve heard nothing or not too much about it, including 38% who have heard nothing at all. (The survey was fielded before a string of recent conversations and controversies about cancel culture.)

Familiarity with the term varies with age. While 64% of adults under 30 say they have heard a great deal or fair amount about cancel culture, that share drops to 46% among those ages 30 to 49 and 34% among those 50 and older.

While discussions around cancel culture can be highly partisan, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are no more likely than Republicans and GOP-leaning independents to say they have heard at least a fair amount about the phrase (46% vs. 44%). (All references to Democrats and Republicans in this analysis include independents who lean to each party.)

When accounting for ideology, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans are more likely to have heard at least a fair amount about cancel culture than their more moderate counterparts within each party. Liberal Democrats stand out as most likely to be familiar with the term.

How do Americans define ‘cancel culture’?

As part of the survey, respondents who had heard about “cancel culture” were given the chance to explain in their own words what they think the term means.

Conservative Republicans less likely than other partisan, ideological groups to describe 'cancel culture' as actions taken to hold others accountable

A small share who mentioned accountability in their definitions also discussed how these actions can be misplaced, ineffective or overtly cruel.

Some 14% of adults who had heard at least a fair amount about cancel culture described it as a form of censorship, such as a restriction on free speech or as history being erased:

A similar share (12%) characterized cancel culture as mean-spirited attacks used to cause others harm:

Five other distinct descriptions of the term cancel culture also appeared in Americans’ responses: people canceling anyone they disagree with, consequences for those who have been challenged, an attack on traditional American values, a way to call out issues like racism or sexism, or a misrepresentation of people’s actions. About one-in-ten or fewer described the phrase in each of these ways.

There were some notable partisan and ideological differences in what the term cancel culture represents. Some 36% of conservative Republicans who had heard the term described it as actions taken to hold people accountable, compared with roughly half or more of moderate or liberal Republicans (51%), conservative or moderate Democrats (54%) and liberal Democrats (59%).

Conservative Republicans who had heard of the term were more likely than other partisan and ideological groups to see cancel culture as a form of censorship. Roughly a quarter of conservative Republicans familiar with the term (26%) described it as censorship, compared with 15% of moderate or liberal Republicans and roughly one-in-ten or fewer Democrats, regardless of ideology. Conservative Republicans aware of the phrase were also more likely than other partisan and ideological groups to define cancel culture as a way for people to cancel anyone they disagree with (15% say this) or as an attack on traditional American society (13% say this).

Click here to explore more definitions and explanations of the term cancel culture .

Does calling people out on social media represent accountability or unjust punishment?

Partisans differ over whether calling out others on social media for potentially offensive content represents accountability or punishment

Given that cancel culture can mean different things to different people, the survey also asked about the more general act of calling out others on social media for posting content that might be considered offensive – and whether this kind of behavior is more likely to hold people accountable or punish those who don’t deserve it.

Overall, 58% of U.S. adults say in general, calling out others on social media is more likely to hold people accountable, while 38% say it is more likely to punish people who don’t deserve it. But views differ sharply by party. Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say that, in general, calling people out on social media for posting offensive content holds them accountable (75% vs. 39%). Conversely, 56% of Republicans – but just 22% of Democrats – believe this type of action generally punishes people who don’t deserve it.

Within each party, there are some modest differences by education level in these views. Specifically, Republicans who have a high school diploma or less education (43%) are slightly more likely than Republicans with some college (36%) or at least a bachelor’s degree (37%) to say calling people out for potentially offensive posts is holding people accountable for their actions. The reverse is true among Democrats: Those with a bachelor’s degree or more education are somewhat more likely than those with a high school diploma or less education to say calling out others is a form of accountability (78% vs. 70%).

Among Democrats, roughly three-quarters of those under 50 (73%) as well as those ages 50 and older (76%) say calling out others on social media is more likely to hold people accountable for their actions. At the same time, majorities of both younger and older Republicans say this action is more likely to punish people who didn’t deserve it (58% and 55%, respectively).

People on both sides of the issue had an opportunity to explain why they see calling out others on social media for potentially offensive content as more likely to be either a form of accountability or punishment. We then coded these answers and grouped them into broad areas to frame the key topics of debates.

Initial coding schemes for each question were derived from reading though the open-ended responses and identifying common themes. Using these themes, coders read each response and coded up to three themes for each response. (If a response mentioned more than three themes, the first three mentioned were coded.)

After all the responses were coded, similarities and groupings among codes both within and across the two questions about accountability and punishment became apparent. As such, answers were grouped into broad areas that framed the biggest points of disagreement between these two groups.

We identified five key areas of disagreement in respondents’ arguments for why they held their views of calling out others, broken down as follows:

  • 25% of all adults address topics related to whether people who call out others are rushing to judge or are trying to be helpful
  • 14% center on whether calling out others on social media is a productive behavior
  • 10% focus on whether free speech or creating a comfortable environment online is more important
  • 8% address the differing agendas of those who call out others
  • 4% focus on whether speaking up is the best action to take if people find content offensive.

For the codes that make up each of these areas, see the Appendix .

Some 17% of Americans who say that calling out others on social media holds people accountable say it can be a teaching moment that helps people learn from their mistakes and do better in the future. Among those who say calling out others unjustly punishes them, a similar share (18%) say it’s because people are not taking the context of a person’s post or the intentions behind it into account before confronting that person.

Americans explain why they think calling out others on social media for potentially offensive posts is either holding people accountable or unjustly punishing them

In all, five types of arguments most commonly stand out in people’s answers. A quarter of all adults mention topics related to whether people who call out others are rushing to judge or are trying to be helpful; 14% center on whether calling out others on social media is a productive behavior or not; 10% focus on whether free speech or creating a comfortable environment online is more important; 8% address the perceived agendas of those who call out others; and 4% focus on whether speaking up is the best action to take if people find content offensive.

Are people rushing to judge or trying to be helpful?

The most common area of opposing arguments about calling out other people on social media arises from people’s differing perspectives on whether people who call out others are rushing to judge or instead trying to be helpful.

One-in-five Americans who see this type of behavior as a form of accountability point to reasons that relate to how helpful calling out others can be. For example, some explained in an open-ended question that they associate this behavior with moving toward a better society or educating others on their mistakes so they can do better in the future. Conversely, roughly a third (35%) of those who see calling out other people on social media as a form of unjust punishment cite reasons that relate to people who call out others being rash or judgmental. Some of these Americans see this kind of behavior as overreacting or unnecessarily lashing out at others without considering the context or intentions of the original poster. Others emphasize that what is considered offensive can be subjective.

Is calling out others on social media productive behavior?

The second most common source of disagreement centers on the question of whether calling out others can solve anything: 13% of those who see calling out others as a form of punishment touch on this issue in explaining their opinion, as do 16% who see it as a form of accountability. Some who see calling people out as unjust punishment say it solves nothing and can actually make things worse. Others in this group question whether social media is a viable place for any productive conversations or see these platforms and their culture as inherently problematic and sometimes toxic. Conversely, there are those who see calling out others as a way to hold people accountable for what they post or to ensure that people consider the consequences of their social media posts.

Which is more important, free speech or creating a comfortable environment online?

Pew Research Center has studied the tension between free speech and feeling safe online for years, including the increasingly partisan nature of these disputes. This debate also appears in the context of calling out content on social media. Some 12% of those who see calling people out as punishment explain – in their own words – that they are in favor of free speech on social media. By comparison, 10% of those who see it in terms of accountability believe that things said in these social spaces matter, or that people should be more considerate by thinking before posting content that may be offensive or make people uncomfortable.

What’s the agenda behind calling out others online?

Another small share of people mention the perceived agenda of those who call out other people on social media in their rationales for why calling out others is accountability or punishment. Some people who see calling out others as a form of accountability say it’s a way to expose social ills such as misinformation, racism, ignorance or hate, or a way to make people face what they say online head-on by explaining themselves. In all, 8% of Americans who see calling out others as a way to hold people accountable for their actions voice these types of arguments.

Those who see calling others out as a form of punishment, by contrast, say it reflects people canceling anyone they disagree with or forcing their views on others. Some respondents feel people are trying to marginalize White voices and history. Others in this group believe that people who call out others are being disingenuous and doing so in an attempt to make themselves look good. In total, these types of arguments were raised by 9% of people who see calling out others as punishment. 

Should people speak up if they are offended?

Arguments for why calling out others is accountability or punishment also involve a small but notable share who debate whether calling others out on social media is the best course of action for someone who finds a particular post offensive. Some 5% of people who see calling out others as punishment say those who find a post offensive should not engage with the post. Instead, they should take a different course of action, such as removing themselves from the situation by ignoring the post or blocking someone if they don’t like what that person has to say. However, 4% of those who see calling out others as a form of accountability believe it is imperative to speak up because saying nothing changes nothing.

Beyond these five main areas of contention, some Americans see shades of gray when it comes to calling out other people on social media and say it can be difficult to classify this kind of behavior as a form of either accountability or punishment. They note that there can be great variability from case to case, and that the efficacy of this approach is by no means uniform: Sometimes those who are being called out may respond with heartfelt apologies but others may erupt in anger and frustration.

Acknowledgments – Appendix – Methodology – Topline

What Americans say about cancel culture and calling out others on social media

Below, we have gathered a selection of quotes from three open-ended survey questions that address two key topics. Americans who’ve heard of the term cancel culture were asked to define what it means to them. After answering a closed-ended question about whether calling out others on social media was more likely to hold people accountable for their actions or punish people who didn’t deserve it, they were asked to explain why they held this view – that is, they were either asked why they saw it as accountability or why they saw it as punishment.

  • In this analysis, “familiar with” or “aware of” the phrase cancel culture mean “have heard at least a fair amount about the phrase cancel culture.” ↩
  • Quotations in this essay may have been lightly edited for grammar, spelling and clarity. ↩

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About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .

The Brave New World of Social Media Censorship

How "terms of service" abridge free speech

  • Marjorie Heins

Response To:

  • The “New” New York Times : Free Speech Lawyering in the Age of Google and Twitter  by  Marvin Ammori
  • See full issue

Thanks to Marvin Ammori for a perceptive overview of the seismic shift in free speech policymaking over the past two decades. Today, as Ammori points out, private companies that run social media sites and search engines are the main arbiters of what gets communicated in the brave new world of cyberspace. And despite their good intentions and their claims to a free-speech-friendly philosophy, these companies employ “terms of service” that censor a broad range of constitutionally protected speech.

I will begin by offering a few examples; then, I will address those two laws that are so critical to online expression, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act 1 (“CDA”) and section 202 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 2 (“DMCA”) (generally known as section 512, its location in title 17 of the U.S. Code). I will conclude with a note on the continuing importance of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan 3 and also a thought on how the new arbiters of speech might improve on that much-celebrated decision.

“Facebook,” as Jeffrey Rosen has said, wields “more power [today] in determining who can speak . . . than any Supreme Court justice, any king or any president.” 4 Facebook’s “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” provides: “You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” 5 Within Facebook’s broad ban, it’s true, reside a few categories of speech that the First Amendment does not protect: threats, incitement, and some subcategory of pornography that might be constitutionally unprotected obscenity under a local community standard. 6 But there is no judicial determination of illegality – just the best guess of Facebook’s censors. Facebook’s internal appeals process is mysterious at best. 7

And most of what Facebook proscribes is protected by the First Amendment. Its power to suppress nude images, to take one example, has a huge potential impact on communications about visual art — including cinema and photography — as well as sex education and discussions of sexual politics. 8 Similarly, judgments about what content is gratuitously violent or hateful toward a religious or ethnic group can vary widely, and the result will be subjective and unpredictable censorship of literature, art, and political discussion.

Professor Ammori tells us that Facebook lawyers have created “a set of rules that hundreds of employees can apply consistently without having to make judgment calls.” 9 The details of these rules, however, we do not know. Unlike censorship decisions by government agencies, the process in the private world of social media is secret.

It is probably true that Facebook has a First Amendment right to censor whatever it wants in order to maintain the kind of social space it wants. Facebook is not, and arguably should not be considered a common carrier, and thus it should not be forced into a legal strait jacket that would prohibit content-based terms of service. As several students in my 2013 censorship class at NYU pointed out when we debated this issue, it is a competitive social-media world out there, and if people are unhappy with Facebook’s censorship policies — or YouTube’s, or Tumblr’s, or Twitter’s, for that matter — they will gravitate to another site.

I suppose the same might be said about search engines, a business long dominated by Google. Arguably, people will move elsewhere if they find Google’s results too censorious. But first they have to know what is being censored. In addition, there is a big distinction between a social-media site that has a certain claim to its own character and tone, and a search engine that is basically a sophisticated mechanical tool. Yet Google’s “Custom Search — Terms of Service” page for the United Kingdom, which applies to U.K. websites that use Google’s search engine to provide a website-specific search tool, prohibits any “pornographic, hate-related, violent or [ — a frequent catch-all category — ] offensive content.” 10 Deciding what is “offensive” is up to Google.

Google censors general searches as well. Its default is the “moderate” setting of an Internet filter called SafeSearch, described as “designed to screen sites that contain sexually explicit content and remove them from your search results.” Google assures us that “[w]hile no filter is 100% accurate, SafeSearch helps you avoid content you may prefer not to see or would rather your children did not stumble across.” 11 As anyone familiar with Internet filtering knows, “not 100% accurate” is a large understatement, 12 and in any event, what business is it of a search engine provider to decide that its huge diversity of users “may prefer not to see” what its bots and spiders determine, based on flawed technology, is “sexually explicit”?

In December 2012, Google made it impossible to entirely disable SafeSearch in the United States, although it claimed that users could still access sexually explicit content if they made their search requests more specific, for example, by including the word “porn.” 13 But what if you are searching for explicit sex education information, not porn? You will not know what SafeSearch is blocking. There is good reason, I think, for Congress or the FCC to prohibit search engines from imposing filters; instead, filters should be available on request. The FCC could categorize search engines as common carriers, just as it should categorize Internet Service Providers as common carriers, which would oblige them to accept all content and refrain from censorship. 14

As Professor Ammori explains, section 230 of the CDA immunizes all Internet users who disseminate content not of their own creation from liability for defamation, invasion of privacy, and virtually everything else except violations of intellectual property. 15 Thus, social media sites like Facebook and search engines like Google do not have to censor anything. In fact, one major aim of section 230 is to discourage private-industry censorship, so that free speech can prevail on the Internet, and those actually responsible for criminal or tortious speech, rather than the pipelines through which they communicate, can be prosecuted or sued. But section 230 does not prohibit private censorship; instead, it affirmatively allows it, 16 and therein lies the rub: vague, broad terms of service, applied by powerful companies like Facebook with no transparency and no clear avenues for appeal.

As Ammori points out, there is an additional problem: Congress’s special treatment of intellectual property. 17 Section 512 of the DMCA gives websites, chatrooms, and other online providers a safe harbor from liability for copyright infringements committed by their users, but only if they comply with take-down notices that do not require any advance judicial determination, and that are often mass-generated by spiders and bots employed by the entertainment industry or its hired hands. 18 The assertedly infringing content must be taken down “expeditiously,” 19 and only reinstated, after ten days, if the person who posted it files a counter-notice. 20 Section 512 was a legislative gift to the media industry: it bestows the power to suppress online content for at least ten days and often permanently, simply on the basis of a demand letter, with no determination whether the company even owns the copyright, whether it applies to the content in question, or whether there might be a defense to copyright infringement, such as fair use.

Section 512 gives a strong incentive to social media sites, search engines, and the like to remove content even though it is questionable whether they would be liable for copyright infringements by their users in the first place. There is not much case law on this issue. The existing precedents are inconsistent, but several of them hold that service providers are not liable. 21 The case against liability is even stronger for search engines that simply provide links. 22 Intellectual property disputes have been a major free-speech issue at least since the advent of the Internet, and section 512, by encouraging censorship, tips the scales too heavily against free speech.

Finally, with free speech policymaking having shifted to private companies, to legislation like sections 230 and 512, and, as Professor Ammori argues, to international forums, what role is left for the U.S. courts, and for landmarks like New York Times Co. v. Sullivan ? Quite a bit, I maintain.

First, as Ammori notes, today’s generation of social media lawyers are inspired by the spirit of Times v. Sullivan , a spirit that extends well beyond the holding of the case. Justice Brennan’s stirringly quotable words about the “uninhibited, robust, and wide open” 23 debate essential to democracy have become, like other great Supreme Court perorations, a part of our literature and culture.

But Times v. Sullivan has its weaknesses; as Justices Black and Douglas pointed out in their concurrence, the “actual malice” test invites intrusive, lengthy, and expensive discovery into the notes, the confidential sources, and the states of mind of reporters and editors. 24 Black and Douglas made a persuasive argument for absolute immunity from liability for defamatory statements about public officials. So, we can honor Sullivan even while improving upon it. State legislatures can go beyond “actual malice” and simply eliminate liability for defamation of public officials. Our social media policymakers can make clear that they do not censor potentially defamatory content if it involves criticism of government. Indeed, they can extend this policy to criticism of public figures, just as Sullivan was eventually extended. 25 And they can extend this policy to other torts, such as infliction of emotional distress, as the principles of Sullivan were extended when Hustler magazine published a crude cartoon mocking the pretensions of the evangelist Jerry Falwell. 26

Today, of course, it is sometimes difficult to criticize government policy because we do not know what the policy is. Disclosures by whistleblowers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have revealed secret torture practices, extrajudicial murders through secret drone strikes, and a massive system of secret government surveillance. 27 Social media sites can play a positive role in the “unique and wholly new medium of worldwide human communication” 28 that is the Internet not only by trimming censorship policies to a minimum but also by fostering robust and wide-open access to the information necessary for a functioning democracy.

* Marjorie Heins is the author, most recently, of Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge (2013).

1 . Pub. L. 104-104, 509, 110 Stat. 56, 137 (1996) (codified at 47 U.S.C. § 230 (2006 & Supp. V 2011)).

2 . Pub. L. No. 105-304, 201, 112 Stat. 2860, 2877 (1998) (codified as amended at 17 U.S.C. § 512 (2012)).

3 . 376 U.S. 254 (1964).

4 . Miguel Helft, Facebook’s Mean Streets , N.Y. TIMES , Dec. 13, 2010, at B1.

5 . Statement of Rights and Responsibilities , FACEBOOK , https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms (last updated Nov. 15, 2013), archived at http://perma.cc/822P-MMEG . Similarly, the “Community Standards” page states: “[W]e do not permit individuals . . . to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.” Facebook Community Standards , FACEBOOK , https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards (last visited May 22, 2014), archived at http://perma.cc/SP2L-FH3X .

6 . See Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 36–37 (1973) (holding, in pertinent part, that obscenity is to be determined by “community standards,” not “national standards”).

7 . See, e.g. , Facebook: [email protected] , GETHUMAN , http://gethuman.com/email/Facebook/customer-service–1782/ (last visited May 22, 2014), archived at http://perma.cc/AYC9-F6GA (containing comments of confused and frustrated Facebook users unable to navigate the appeals process); How Can I Appeal a Decision to Reject a Promoted Post? , FACEBOOK , https://www.facebook.com/help/community/question/?id=416906145087402 (last visited May 22, 2014), archived at http://perma.cc/4CDU-SPJX (providing no answer to user’s request related to Facebook’s appeals process).

8 . See, e.g. , Lee Rowland, Naked Statue Reveals One Thing: Facebook Censorship Needs a Better Appeals Process , ACLU (Sept. 25, 2013), https://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty-national-security/naked-statue-reveals-one-thing-facebook-censorship , archived at http://perma.cc/ZC38-B3YS (describing the ACLU’s experience in appealing Facebook’s removal of a photo of a nude statue that was the subject of a censorship dispute in Kansas); see also Svetlana Mintcheva, post to Free Expression Network (Feb. 7, 2010) (in author’s files) (describing decision by domain Network Solutions to eject The File Room censorship archive because of a Nan Goldin photograph; the photograph in question shows two little girls playing; one is naked and her vulva can be seen. A link to the photograph on the File Room website has been deleted from this footnote, over the strenuous objection of the author, on the advice of counsel for the Harvard Law Review . Author’s note: that a link to an innocent photograph by one of the country’s major artists should be censored is evidence of both the danger and the absurdity of confusing images of children’s bodies with child pornography).

9 . Marvin Ammori, The “New” New York Times : Free Speech Lawyering in the Age of Google and Twitter , 127 HARV. L. REV. 2259, 2278 (2014).

10 . Google Custom Search: Terms of Service , GOOGLE UK , https://www.google.co.uk/cse/docs/tos.html (last visited May 22, 2014), archived at http://perma.cc/6MHV-GTG6 . The analogous page for U.S. sites provides: “the Site shall not contain any pornographic, hate-related or violent content or contain any other material, products or services that violate or encourage conduct that would violate any criminal laws, any other applicable laws, Service policies, or any third party rights.” Google Custom Search: Terms of Service , GOOGLE , https://www.google.com/cse/docs/tos.html (last visited May 22, 2014), archived at http://perma.cc/R98B-UA3Q .

11 . Google’s Safety Tools , GOOGLE , https://www.google.com/goodtoknow/familysafety/tools/ (last visited May 22, 2014), archived at http://perma.cc/H4FK-7C5W .

12 . See, e.g. , MARJORIE HEINS, CHRISTINA CHO & ARIEL FELDMAN, INTERNET FILTERS: A PUBLIC POLICY REPORT (2006), archived at http://perma.cc/QFP3-V828 ; see also id. at 65 (providing specific information on Google’s SafeSearch).

13 . See Casey Newton, Google Tweaks Image Search to Make Porn Harder to Find , CNET (Dec. 12, 2012, 3:41 PM), http://www.cnet.com/news/google-tweaks-image-search-to-make-porn-harder-to-find/ , archived at http://perma.cc/65GH-E5KK ; Matthew Panzarino, Google Tweaks Image Search Algorithm and SafeSearch Option to Show Less Explicit Content, THENEXTWEB (Dec. 12, 2012, 8:36 PM), http://thenextweb.com/google/2012/12/12/google-changes-search-image-safesearch-explicit/ , archived at http://perma.cc/SAH5-QTUC ; Josh Wolford, Google No Longer Allows You to Disable SafeSearch, and That Makes Google Search Worse , WEBPRONEWS (Dec. 16, 2012), http://www.webpronews.com/google-preventing-u-s-users-from-disabling-safesearch-2012-12 , archived at http://perma.cc/5C7J-QYZ6 . Thanks to NYU student Rebecca Suss, whose term paper for my fall semester 2013 class alerted me to Google’s decision to make it impossible to disable SafeSearch.

14 . Cf. Verizon v. FCC, 740 F.3d 623, 628 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (striking down parts of an FCC order to create “net neutrality” on the basis that the FCC had previously categorized certain Internet service providers as exempt from “common carier” status).

15 . See Ammori, supra note 9, at 2262, 2290; 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1) (2006 & Supp. V 2011).

16 . 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(2) (“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of — (A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable , whether or not such material is constitutionally protected . . . .” (emphasis added)).

17 . See Ammori, supra note 9, at 2290.

18 . See 17 U.S.C. § 512 (2012); LAURA QUILTER & MARJORIE HEINS, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND FREE SPEECH IN THE ONLINE WORLD 9, 14 (2007), http://www.fepproject.org/policyreports/quilterheinsreport.pdf , archived at http://perma.cc/W7HC-UB2V .

19 . 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(1)(A)(iii); id. § 512(d)(1)(C). For explanation of the various subsections of section 512 and how they apply to different online providers, see Quilter & Heins, supra note 18.

20 . 17 U.S.C. § 512(g).

21 . See QUILTER & HEINS , supra note 18, at 10 n. 22.

22 . See id. at 9 n.19.

23 . New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270 (1964).

24 . Id. at 293–97 (Black, J., concurring).

25 . Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130, 155 (1967) (plurality opinion).

26 . Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 57 (1988).

27 . See, e.g. , Greg Miller, Julie Tate & Barton Gellman, Documents Reveal NSA’s Extensive Involvement in Targeted Killing Program , WASH. POST. (Oct. 16, 2013), http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/documents-reveal-nsas-extensive-involvement-in-targeted-killing-program/2013/10/16/29775278-3674-11e3-8a0e-4e2cf80831fc_story.html , archived at http://perma.cc/3RPL-FA7T ; Greg Mitchell, A Long List of What We Know Thanks to Private Manning , THE NATION (Aug. 23, 2013), http://www.thenation.com/blog/175879/long-list-what-we-know-thanks-private-manning , archived at http://perma.cc/6HYB-KJRK ; Jeremy Scahill & Glenn Greenwald, The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program , THE INTERCEPT (Feb. 10, 2014, 12:03 AM), https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/02/10/the-nsas-secret-role/ , archived at http://perma.cc/8R64-X2WK ; Peter Walker, Bradley Manning Trial: What We Know from the Leaked Wikileaks Documents , THE GUARDIAN (July 30, 2013), http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/30/bradley-manning-wikileaks-revelations , archived at http://perma.cc/9KSX-58RP ; Stephanie C. Webster, Edward Snowden’s 10 Biggest Revelations About the NSA , THE PROGRESSIVE (Jan. 17, 2014), https://www.progressive.org/edward-snowdens-10-biggest-revelations-about-the-nsa , archived at http://perma.cc/V7QC-PF9J .

28 . Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 850 (1997) (quoting ACLU v. Reno, 929 F. Supp. 824, 844 (E.D. Pa. 1996)) (internal quotation mark omitted).

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113 Censorship Essay Topics & Examples

Looking for censorship topics for research papers or essays? The issue is controversial, hot, and definitely worth exploring.

🏆 Best Censorship Topic Ideas & Essay Examples

🚫 internet censorship essay topics, 📍 censorship research questions, 💡 easy censorship essay topics, 😡 controversial censorship topics to write about, ❓ research questions about censorship, 🙅 censorship topics for research paper.

Censorship implies suppression of public communication and speech due to its harmfulness or other reasons. It can be done by governments or other controlling bodies.

In your censorship essay, you might want to focus on its types: political, religion, educational, etc. Another idea is to discuss the reasons for and against censorship. One more option is to concentrate on censorship in a certain area: art, academy, or media. Finally, you can discuss why freedom of expression is important.

Whether you need to write an argumentative or informative essay on censorship, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ve collected best internet censorship essay topics, title ideas, research questions, together with paper examples.

  • Need for Internet Censorship and its Impact on Society The negative impacts of internet have raised many concerns over freedom of access and publishing of information, leading to the need to censor internet.
  • Ethics and Media: Censorship in the UAE In this case, it is possible to apply the harm principle, according to which the task of the state is to minimize potential threats to the entire community.
  • Pros and Cons of Censorship of Pornography This is due to the fact that pornography is all about exploitation of an individual in maters pertaining to sex as well as violence exercised on females by their male counterparts.
  • Literature Censorship in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury The issues raised in the novel, Fahrenheit 451, are relevant in contemporary American society and Bradbury’s thoughts were a warning for what he highlighted is happening in the contemporary United States.
  • Censorship and the Arts in the United States The article titled “Censorship versus Freedom of Expression in the Arts” by Chiang and Posner expresses concerns that the government may illegitimately censor art to avoid corruption of morals and avoid subversion of politics.
  • Balance of Media Censorship and Press Freedom Government censorship means the prevention of the circulation of information already produced by the official government There are justifications for the suppression of communication such as fear that it will harm individuals in the society […]
  • Censorship of Films in the UAE Censorship of films in the United Arab Emirates is a major ethical dilemma as reflected in the case study analysis because the practice contravenes the freedom of media.
  • ”Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury: Censorship and Independent Thinking By exploring the notion and censorship and how it affects people, the author draws parallels with the modern world of his time and the increasing impact of government-led propaganda. Censorship is a recurring theme that […]
  • Self-Censorship of American Film Studios In this sense, the lack of freedom of expression and constant control of the film creations is what differs the 20th-century film studios from contemporary movie creators.
  • Twitter and Violations of Freedom of Speech and Censorship The sort of organization that examines restrictions and the opportunities and challenges it encounters in doing so is the center of a widely acknowledged way of thinking about whether it is acceptable to restrict speech.
  • Censorship and “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher Though the novel “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher could be seen as inappropriate for young adults, attempting to censor it would mean infringing upon the author’s right to self-expression and the readers’ right to […]
  • Censorship by Big Tech (Social Media) Companies Despite such benefits, these platforms are connected to such evils as an addictive business model and a lack of control over the type of content that is accessible to children users.
  • Freedom of Speech: Is Censorship Necessary? One of the greatest achievements of the contemporary democratic society is the freedom of speech. However, it is necessary to realize in what cases the government has the right to abridge the freedom of self-expression.
  • Censorship on Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury The main protagonist of the novel is Guy Montag, a fireman whose job like others, is to burn books without questioning the impact of his decision.
  • Art and the Politics of Censorship in Literature The inclusion of the novel in classroom studies in the early 1960s especially 1963, spurred criticisms due to the issues of contention addressed by the novel.
  • The Issue of Parents’ Censorship Filtering the sources of information by the adults is like growing the plants in the greenhouse, hiding them from all the dangers of the surrounding world.
  • Art and the Politics of Censorship The final act of the film is the most vital of all the scenes because the subject of the dispute elucidates the disparities between the director, producer, and censors.
  • Censorship of Pornographic Material Effects of pornography are broad and the consequences are hazardous as it affects the moral fiber of the society. Censorship of explicit and pornographic material should be encouraged as we cannot imagine the catastrophe that […]
  • China Intellectual Property Research on Censorship To prove the importance of the China’s intention to set the internet censorship, it is necessary to mention about rapid expansion of online technologies has made the internet one of the effective means of communication […]
  • Pornography and Censorship in Society Admittedly, sexual explicitness has risen to new levels in the last few years, due in part to changing attitudes toward sexual behavior and the desire for more personal flexibility in the making of moral decisions.”The […]
  • Censorship, Holocaust and Political Correctness In this paper, we will focus on exploring different aspects of formal and informal censorship, in regards to a so-called “Holocaust denial”, as we strongly believe that people’s ability to express their thoughts freely is […]
  • Censorship: For the People, or for Controlling The main aim for this art in our societies is to restrain and conceal beneath the disguise of defending the key fundamental public amenities that are; the State, families and churches.
  • Censorship in the United States Thus, the rationale of censorship is that it is necessary for the protection of the three basic social institutions; the family; the religion; the state.
  • Music Censorship in the United States Censorship is an act of the government and the government had no hand in the ban of Dixie Chicks songs, rather it was the fans boycotts that led to a ban on airplay.
  • Modern Means of Censorship In his article Internet Censorship neither by Government nor by Media, Jossey writes about the importance of online political communication during the elections and the new level of freedom provided by the Internet.
  • Art and Media Censorship: Plato, Aristotle, and David Hume The philosopher defines God and the creator’s responsibilities in the text of the Republic: The creator is real and the opposite of evil.
  • Censorship, Its Forms and Purpose The argument here is that censorship is a means being used by conservative persons and groups with distinct interests to make life standards so difficult and unbearable for the minors in the society, in the […]
  • Censorship in China: History and Controlling This is especially so when the government or a dominant religious denomination in a country is of the view that the proliferation of a certain religious dogma threatens the stability of the country or the […]
  • Creativity and Censorship in Egyptian Filmmaking The intention of the media laws and other statutes censoring the film industry is to protect the sanctity of religion, sex, and the overly conservative culture of the Egyptian people.
  • Internet Censorship and Cultural Values in the UAE Over the past few years, the government of the UAE introduced several measures, the main aim of which is to protect the mentality of people of the state and its culture from the pernicious influence […]
  • Societal Control: Sanctions, Censorship, Surveillance The submission or agreeing to do according to the societal expectations and values are strong under the influence of both official and informal methods of control.
  • Censorship Impacts on Civil Liberties In the US, the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of expression; it is one of the main democratic rights and freedoms.
  • Internet Censorship: Blocking and Filtering It is the obligation of the government to protect the innocence of the children through internet censorship. In some nations, the government uses internet blocking and filtering as a method to hide information from the […]
  • Media Censorship: Wikileaks Wikileaks just offers the information which is to be available for people. Information is not just a source of knowledge it is the way to control the world.
  • Censorship on the Internet Censorship in the internet can also occur in the traditional sense of the word where material is removed from the internet to prevent public access.
  • Censorship of Social Networking Sites in Developing Countries Censorship of social media sites is the control of information that is available to users. The aim of this paper was to discuss censorship of social media sites in third world countries.
  • Government Censorship of WikiLeaks In my opinion, the government should censor WikiLeaks in order to control information content that it releases to the public. In attempting to censor WikiLeaks, the US and Australian government will be limiting the freedom […]
  • Censorship defeats its own purpose Is that not a disguised method of promoting an authoritarian regime by allowing an individual or a group of individuals to make that decision for the entire society The proponents of SOPA bill may argue […]
  • Censorship and Banned Books Based on what has been presented in this paper so far it can be seen that literary freedom is an important facilitator in helping children develop a certain degree of intellectual maturity by broadening their […]
  • Aspects of Internet Censorship by the Government When one try to access a website the uniform resource locator is checked if it consists of the restricting keyword, if the keyword is found in the URL the site become unavailable.
  • Censorship vs. Self-censorship in the News Media Assessment of the appropriateness of the mass media in discharging the above-named duties forms the basis of the ideological analysis of the news media.
  • Should Censorship Laws Be Applied to the Internet? On the other hand, the need to control cyber crime, cyber stalking, and violation of copyrights, examination leakage and other negative uses of the internet has become a necessity.
  • Internet Censorship in Saudi Arabia The censorship is charged to the ISU, which, manage the high-speed data links connecting the country to the rest of the world.
  • Media Control and Censorship of TV The second type of control imposed on the media is the control of information that may put the security of a country at risk.
  • Chinese Censorship Block Chinese People from Creativity With the development of the country’s first browser in the year 1994 and subsequent move by the government to “provide internet accessing services” in the year 1996, the use of the technology began to develop […]
  • Censorship in Advertising One of the most notorious examples is the marketing of drugs; pharmaceutical companies have successfully convinced a significant number of people that drugs are the only violable solution to their health problems.
  • Censorship for Television and Radio Media This paper seeks to provide an in-depth analysis of censorship with the aim of determining the extent to which content on broadcast media can be censored. A good example of a situation in which moral […]
  • Empirical Likelihood Semiparametric Regression Analysis Under Random Censorship
  • An Argument Against Internet Censorship in United States of America
  • The Lack of Freedom and the Radio Censorship in the United States of America
  • Censorship as the Control of What People May Say or Hear, Write or Read, or See or Do
  • An Analysis and Overview of the Censorship and Explicit Lyrics in the United States of America
  • The First Amendment and Censorship in the United States
  • Advertiser Influence on The Media: Censorship and the Media
  • The Freedom of Speech and Censorship on the Internet
  • Censorship Necessary for Proper Education of Guardian
  • An Argument in Favor of Censorship on Television Based on Content, the Time Slot and the Audience
  • Music Censorship and the Effects of Listening to Music with Violent and Objectionable Lyrics
  • An Analysis of Controversial Issue in Censorship on the Internet
  • Consistent Estimation Under Random Censorship When Covariables Are Present
  • Music Censorship Is a Violation of Constitutional and Human
  • Censorship Should Not Be Imposed by the Government
  • Internet Censorship and Its Role in Protecting Our Societys Addolecent Community
  • Against Internet Censorship Even Pornography
  • The Concept of Censorship on College Campuses on the Topic of Racism and Sexism
  • Cyber-Frontier and Internet Censorship from the Government
  • Creative Alternatives in the Issues of Censorship in the United States
  • Asymptotically Efficient Estimation Under Semi-Parametric Random Censorship Models
  • Chinese and Russian Regimes and Tactics of Censorship
  • An Overview of the Right or Wrong and the Principles of Censorship
  • An Argument Against the Censorship of Literature in Schools Due to Racism in the Literary Works
  • The History, Positive and Negative Effects of Censorship in the United States
  • Burlesque Shows and Censorship Analysis
  • Importance of Free Speech on the Internet and Its Censorship
  • Historical Background of the Libertarian Party and Their Views on the Role of the Government, Censorship, and Gun Control
  • Internet Censorship and the Communications Decency Act
  • Monitoring Children’s Surfing Habits Is a Better Way Than Putting Censorship Over the Internet
  • A History of Censorship in Ancient and Modern Civilizations
  • Censorship, Supervision and Control of the Information and Ideas
  • Importance of Television Censorship to the Three Basic Social Institutions
  • An Argument That Censorship Must Be Employed if Morals and Decency Are to Be Preserved
  • Is Internet Censorship and De-Anonymization an Attack on Our Freedom
  • Censorship or Parental Monitoring
  • What Does Raleigh’s Letter Home and the Censorship Issue Tell You About Raleigh?
  • Does Censorship Limit One’s Freedom?
  • How Darwin Shaped Our Understanding of Why Language Exists?
  • How Does Censorship Affect the Relationship with His Wife?
  • Why and How Censorship Lead to Ignorance in Young People?
  • What Is the Impact of Censorship on Children?
  • How Does Media Censorship Violate Freedom of Expression and Impact Businesses?
  • Censorship or Responsibility: Which Is the Lesser of Two?
  • How Can Censorship Hinder Progress?
  • How Musical Censorship Related to the Individual?
  • How The Media Pretends to Protect Us with Censorship?
  • What Is the Impact of Censorship on Our Everyday Lives?
  • Is There China Internet Censorship Against Human Rights?
  • Can Ratings for Movies Censorship Be Socially Justified?
  • Censorship: Should Public Libraries Filter Internet Sites?
  • Does Parental Censorship Make Children More Curious?
  • What Are the Arguments for and Against the Censorship of Pornography?
  • How Propaganda and Censorship Were Used In Britain and Germany During WWI?
  • Should the Chinese Government Ban the Internet Censorship?
  • How Virginia Woolf’s Orlando Subverted Censorship and Revolutionized the Politics of LGBT Love in 1928?
  • How Modern Dictators Survive: Cooptation, Censorship, Propaganda, and Repression?
  • What arguments Were Used to Support or Oppose Censorship in Video Nasties?
  • Why News Ownership Affects Free Press and Press Censorship?
  • Should Music Suffer the Bonds of Censorship Interviews?
  • Why Should Graffiti Be Considered an Accepted from of Art?
  • What Is the Connection Between Censorship and the Banning of Books?
  • How Does Congress Define Censor and Censorship?
  • How Does Censorship Affect the Development of Animations?
  • Why Should Internet Censorship Be Allowed?
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

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Argumentative Essay- Explained 

Before writing an argumentative essay about social media, it's important to understand what makes up a good argumentative essay. 

An argumentative essay is an article that presents both sides of an issue or debate in order to reach a conclusion. 

It requires you to provide evidence and facts, present a point of view, and develop an argument.

When writing an argumentative essay on social media, you must present both sides of the issue or debate in a balanced manner. 

You must also be sure to explain why one side has more credibility than the other. 

This means that you’ll need to do your research and make sure that your essay has facts and evidence to back up your claims. 

Why Do We Write an Argumentative Essay About Social Media?

This type of essay can be difficult because it requires you to present both sides of the argument in a balanced and unbiased manner. 

It also requires you to research facts that support either side of the argument and present them in a clear and logical manner.

By writing this essay, you can help readers understand why one point of view is more credible than another. 

This can help them form their own opinions on the issue and become better informed on the topic. 

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Steps to Write an Argumentative Essay About Social Media

Writing an argumentative essay about social media requires research, facts, and evidence. 

Here are a few steps that can help you write a great argumentative essay:

Research To Collect Data and Material 

The first step in writing an argumentative essay about social media is to do research and collect data .

This includes researching various sources such as books, articles, and websites that provide reliable information about the topic. 

Take notes on what you read and highlight any points or quotes that you may want to include in your essay. 

Pick an Engaging Title for an Argumentative Essay About Social Media 

When it comes to writing a great argumentative essay about social media, one of the most important elements is having a great title. 

A good title will draw readers in and encourage them to read your essay.

Make sure the title is catchy yet relevant to the main topic of your paper. 

Form a Descriptive Outline 

Once you have collected enough data and material, it’s time to start forming a descriptive outline of your essay. 

This should include all the points you plan on discussing throughout the body paragraphs. Furthermore, it should include any conclusions that you may want to propose at the end of your paper. 

By having a clear idea of what your paper will cover, it will be much easier to plan out each section before writing it out in full detail.

Check out this amazing blog on argumentative essay outline to craft perfect outlines.

Write an Introduction of an Argumentative Essay About Social Media 

Your introduction should be engaging and introduce readers to the main topic of your paper.

Here, you can also state which side of the argument you are taking (if applicable) so readers know where you stand from the beginning. 

Write Connect The Body Paragraphs Of Your Essay  

In each body paragraph, provide evidence or facts that prove why your opinion is correct.

Each paragraph should introduce a new point or idea related back to your main argument.

Make sure each point flows naturally into one another without jumping around too much from one point/idea to another.  

Write A Compelling Conclusion                  

Finally, write a compelling conclusion that wraps up all points made throughout the body paragraphs.  

Make sure not only summarize what was already said. Also, provide insight into why these topics are still relevant today and how they affect us today going forward!  

Examples of Argumentative Essay About Social Media 

When writing an argumentative essay about social media, it can be helpful to look at examples.

Here is a sample argumentative essay written by our expert writers. Check it out for more inspiration.

By reading these sample essays, you can gain a better understanding of how to write your own essay and what elements are important to include. 

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Check our extensive blog on argumentative essay examples to ace your next essay!

Argumentative Essay About Social Media Topics

If you’re looking for topics to write about in your argumentative essay about social media, take a look at the list below for some ideas: 

  • The Impact of Social Media on Human Interaction 
  • How Can We Limit Social Media Use? 
  • Is Social Media Harmful/Beneficial to Mental Health? 
  • Social Media and Its Effect on the Education System 
  • Is Social Media Really a Positive Influence on Young People? 
  • The Impact of Social Media on Privacy 
  • How Has Social Media Changed Society in Recent Years? 
  • Should We Censor Content Posted on Social Media Platforms like Twitter and Facebook? 
  • Does Social Media Make Us Feel More Alone? 
  • Are Social Media Users Becoming Increasingly Narcissistic? 
  • Should We Rely on Social Media for News Sources? 
  • Is Social Media a Tool of Surveillance? 

Check our comprehensive blog on argumentative essay topics to get more topic ideas!

The platform that you use to communicate with others can be a great tool or it can do more harm than good. It all depends on how you use it and what your intentions are. 

You can find social media argumentative essay examples all over the internet, but not every one of them is going to be a winner. 

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Argumentative Essay about Social Media

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argumentative essay on social media censorship

Elliot D. Cohen Ph.D.

Social Media

Morality, violence, and free speech on social media, should tiktok have taken down the bin laden letter.

Posted November 19, 2023 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch

Recently, a letter written by the late terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, advocating killing Americans and Jews was circulated on TikTok. The letter was subsequently taken down by the administrators of the site along with commentary defending it. Should TikTok have taken down these posts; or did it violate these individuals’ right to free speech? In this digital age, the questions raise new considerations which warrant analysis, especially in a period of history when there is a growing trend toward systemic racism, xenophobia , and other forms of discrimination .

A classical statement about whether and when free speech can be censored in a democratic society comes from philosopher John Stuart Mill in his classic essay, On Liberty (1859). Wrote Mill:

An opinion that corn-dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur punishment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corn-dealer, or when handed about among the same mob in the form of a placard. Acts, of whatever kind, which, without justifiable cause, do harm to others, may be, and in the more important cases absolutely require to be, controlled by the unfavourable sentiments, and, when needful, by the active interference of mankind (Ch. 3, Mill).

In 1919, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in Schenck v. United States , aligned with Mill, stating that:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic . It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force. … The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to. create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.

Neither Mill nor Holmes could have foreseen the challenge presented by the internet as a vehicle for inciting an angry mob to do violence to others by uttering words that could have all the effect of force. The theatre of cyberspace has the far-reaching capacity to incite millions globally, especially via social media platforms such as TikTok, Facebook, and X, among others. Statements intended to encourage violence to other human beings that are uttered in a relatively small physical space may be much less dangerous, when weighed on a social scale, than the same statements made over the internet.

Hence, while free speech should be preserved on the Internet, thereby permitting it to endure as the greatest experiment in democracy ever attempted, this does not bar it from limitations. Such restriction includes hateful, prejudicial speech that poses a “clear and present danger” to others.

There is, of course, the controversial question of whether the government should get involved with restrictions of free speech in such cases given the uncanny power it has of encroaching on freedom of speech if not itself constrained. Alternatively, it may arguably be the professional responsibility of administrators of such behemoth bastions of cyber speech to regulate such speech when it occurs. In other words, the latter may be treated as part of the professional code of ethics of those who stand as the gatekeepers of social media.

The grounds of such a moral responsibility, according to Mill, would be harm to others. Freedom of speech, argued Mill, should not be restricted unless it portends physical harm to others. The fact that some may be emotionally upset by a certain line of speech, even hateful speech, is not itself grounds for censoring it. Mill suggested that such censorship ultimately deprives humanity of a forum in which all ideas can be displayed side-by-side, both true and false, thereby allowing the truth to be heard while the false is exposed against the background of truth.

The exception, however, should not devour the rule. Thus, the criterion for restricting speech needs to be narrow so as not to infringe on other types of speech. Hate speech is itself too broad for these purposes. Someone can express hatred without threatening to harm the object of hatred. Hence, not all hate speech would qualify as that which “creates a clear and present danger.”

Speech has what philosophers of language call “illocutionary force.” That is, it can be used to perform diverse acts . For example, in saying “I hate Blacks (Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Americans, or whomever)," one is reporting or expressing one’s own subjective, negative emotion toward the group in question. On the other hand, in saying something equivalent to “American civilians should be killed” (due to their paying taxes to the American government—an argument advanced by Bin Laden in the letter removed by TikTok), one is also making a threat , or, at least recommending killing American civilians. Such speech acts, committed in a forum that reaches millions of people, at least some of whom are likely to be inclined toward violence, arguably creates a “clear and present danger” to innocent civilians. It does not matter whether the intended targets are Americans, Israelis, Palestinians, Backs, Whites, or whomever. The threat, or recommendation, is one which, arguably falls under Mill's Harm Principle, and can, therefore, on this criterion, be censored. Thus, the criterion consonant with Mill’s principle, as applied to social media, can take the following form:

Does the post in question threaten or recommend doing substantial physical harm to a certain individual or group of individuals?

If the answer to this question is yes, then the administrators of a social media network do, indeed, have a professional responsibility to take down, or disallow the post pursuant to Mill’s Harm Principle.

Elliot D. Cohen Ph.D.

Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D. , is the president of the Logic-Based Therapy and Consultation Institute and one of the principal founders of philosophical counseling in the United States.

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6 Example Essays on Social Media | Advantages, Effects, and Outlines

Got an essay assignment about the effects of social media we got you covered check out our examples and outlines below.

Social media has become one of our society's most prominent ways of communication and information sharing in a very short time. It has changed how we communicate and has given us a platform to express our views and opinions and connect with others. It keeps us informed about the world around us. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn have brought individuals from all over the world together, breaking down geographical borders and fostering a genuinely global community.

However, social media comes with its difficulties. With the rise of misinformation, cyberbullying, and privacy problems, it's critical to utilize these platforms properly and be aware of the risks. Students in the academic world are frequently assigned essays about the impact of social media on numerous elements of our lives, such as relationships, politics, and culture. These essays necessitate a thorough comprehension of the subject matter, critical thinking, and the ability to synthesize and convey information clearly and succinctly.

But where do you begin? It can be challenging to know where to start with so much information available. Jenni.ai comes in handy here. Jenni.ai is an AI application built exclusively for students to help them write essays more quickly and easily. Jenni.ai provides students with inspiration and assistance on how to approach their essays with its enormous database of sample essays on a variety of themes, including social media. Jenni.ai is the solution you've been looking for if you're experiencing writer's block or need assistance getting started.

So, whether you're a student looking to better your essay writing skills or want to remain up to date on the latest social media advancements, Jenni.ai is here to help. Jenni.ai is the ideal tool for helping you write your finest essay ever, thanks to its simple design, an extensive database of example essays, and cutting-edge AI technology. So, why delay? Sign up for a free trial of Jenni.ai today and begin exploring the worlds of social networking and essay writing!

Want to learn how to write an argumentative essay? Check out these inspiring examples!

We will provide various examples of social media essays so you may get a feel for the genre.

6 Examples of Social Media Essays

Here are 6 examples of Social Media Essays:

The Impact of Social Media on Relationships and Communication


The way we share information and build relationships has evolved as a direct result of the prevalence of social media in our daily lives. The influence of social media on interpersonal connections and conversation is a hot topic. Although social media has many positive effects, such as bringing people together regardless of physical proximity and making communication quicker and more accessible, it also has a dark side that can affect interpersonal connections and dialogue.

Positive Effects:

Connecting People Across Distances

One of social media's most significant benefits is its ability to connect individuals across long distances. People can use social media platforms to interact and stay in touch with friends and family far away. People can now maintain intimate relationships with those they care about, even when physically separated.

Improved Communication Speed and Efficiency

Additionally, the proliferation of social media sites has accelerated and simplified communication. Thanks to instant messaging, users can have short, timely conversations rather than lengthy ones via email. Furthermore, social media facilitates group communication, such as with classmates or employees, by providing a unified forum for such activities.

Negative Effects:

Decreased Face-to-Face Communication

The decline in in-person interaction is one of social media's most pernicious consequences on interpersonal connections and dialogue. People's reliance on digital communication over in-person contact has increased along with the popularity of social media. Face-to-face interaction has suffered as a result, which has adverse effects on interpersonal relationships and the development of social skills.

Decreased Emotional Intimacy

Another adverse effect of social media on relationships and communication is decreased emotional intimacy. Digital communication lacks the nonverbal cues and facial expressions critical in building emotional connections with others. This can make it more difficult for people to develop close and meaningful relationships, leading to increased loneliness and isolation.

Increased Conflict and Miscommunication

Finally, social media can also lead to increased conflict and miscommunication. The anonymity and distance provided by digital communication can lead to misunderstandings and hurtful comments that might not have been made face-to-face. Additionally, social media can provide a platform for cyberbullying , which can have severe consequences for the victim's mental health and well-being.


In conclusion, the impact of social media on relationships and communication is a complex issue with both positive and negative effects. While social media platforms offer many benefits, such as connecting people across distances and enabling faster and more accessible communication, they also have a dark side that can negatively affect relationships and communication. It is up to individuals to use social media responsibly and to prioritize in-person communication in their relationships and interactions with others.

The Role of Social Media in the Spread of Misinformation and Fake News

Social media has revolutionized the way information is shared and disseminated. However, the ease and speed at which data can be spread on social media also make it a powerful tool for spreading misinformation and fake news. Misinformation and fake news can seriously affect public opinion, influence political decisions, and even cause harm to individuals and communities.

The Pervasiveness of Misinformation and Fake News on Social Media

Misinformation and fake news are prevalent on social media platforms, where they can spread quickly and reach a large audience. This is partly due to the way social media algorithms work, which prioritizes content likely to generate engagement, such as sensational or controversial stories. As a result, false information can spread rapidly and be widely shared before it is fact-checked or debunked.

The Influence of Social Media on Public Opinion

Social media can significantly impact public opinion, as people are likelier to believe the information they see shared by their friends and followers. This can lead to a self-reinforcing cycle, where misinformation and fake news are spread and reinforced, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

The Challenge of Correcting Misinformation and Fake News

Correcting misinformation and fake news on social media can be a challenging task. This is partly due to the speed at which false information can spread and the difficulty of reaching the same audience exposed to the wrong information in the first place. Additionally, some individuals may be resistant to accepting correction, primarily if the incorrect information supports their beliefs or biases.

In conclusion, the function of social media in disseminating misinformation and fake news is complex and urgent. While social media has revolutionized the sharing of information, it has also made it simpler for false information to propagate and be widely believed. Individuals must be accountable for the information they share and consume, and social media firms must take measures to prevent the spread of disinformation and fake news on their platforms.

The Effects of Social Media on Mental Health and Well-Being

Social media has become an integral part of modern life, with billions of people around the world using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay connected with others and access information. However, while social media has many benefits, it can also negatively affect mental health and well-being.

Comparison and Low Self-Esteem

One of the key ways that social media can affect mental health is by promoting feelings of comparison and low self-esteem. People often present a curated version of their lives on social media, highlighting their successes and hiding their struggles. This can lead others to compare themselves unfavorably, leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Cyberbullying and Online Harassment

Another way that social media can negatively impact mental health is through cyberbullying and online harassment. Social media provides a platform for anonymous individuals to harass and abuse others, leading to feelings of anxiety, fear, and depression.

Social Isolation

Despite its name, social media can also contribute to feelings of isolation. At the same time, people may have many online friends but need more meaningful in-person connections and support. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.

Addiction and Overuse

Finally, social media can be addictive, leading to overuse and negatively impacting mental health and well-being. People may spend hours each day scrolling through their feeds, neglecting other important areas of their lives, such as work, family, and self-care.

In sum, social media has positive and negative consequences on one's psychological and emotional well-being. Realizing this, and taking measures like reducing one's social media use, reaching out to loved ones for help, and prioritizing one's well-being, are crucial. In addition, it's vital that social media giants take ownership of their platforms and actively encourage excellent mental health and well-being.

The Use of Social Media in Political Activism and Social Movements

Social media has recently become increasingly crucial in political action and social movements. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have given people new ways to express themselves, organize protests, and raise awareness about social and political issues.

Raising Awareness and Mobilizing Action

One of the most important uses of social media in political activity and social movements has been to raise awareness about important issues and mobilize action. Hashtags such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, for example, have brought attention to sexual harassment and racial injustice, respectively. Similarly, social media has been used to organize protests and other political actions, allowing people to band together and express themselves on a bigger scale.

Connecting with like-minded individuals

A second method in that social media has been utilized in political activity and social movements is to unite like-minded individuals. Through social media, individuals can join online groups, share knowledge and resources, and work with others to accomplish shared objectives. This has been especially significant for geographically scattered individuals or those without access to traditional means of political organizing.

Challenges and Limitations

As a vehicle for political action and social movements, social media has faced many obstacles and restrictions despite its many advantages. For instance, the propagation of misinformation and fake news on social media can impede attempts to disseminate accurate and reliable information. In addition, social media corporations have been condemned for censorship and insufficient protection of user rights.

In conclusion, social media has emerged as a potent instrument for political activism and social movements, giving voice to previously unheard communities and galvanizing support for change. Social media presents many opportunities for communication and collaboration. Still, users and institutions must be conscious of the risks and limitations of these tools to promote their responsible and productive usage.

The Potential Privacy Concerns Raised by Social Media Use and Data Collection Practices

With billions of users each day on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, social media has ingrained itself into every aspect of our lives. While these platforms offer a straightforward method to communicate with others and exchange information, they also raise significant concerns over data collecting and privacy. This article will examine the possible privacy issues posed by social media use and data-gathering techniques.

Data Collection and Sharing

The gathering and sharing of personal data are significant privacy issues brought up by social media use. Social networking sites gather user data, including details about their relationships, hobbies, and routines. This information is made available to third-party businesses for various uses, such as marketing and advertising. This can lead to serious concerns about who has access to and uses our personal information.

Lack of Control Over Personal Information

The absence of user control over personal information is a significant privacy issue brought up by social media usage. Social media makes it challenging to limit who has access to and how data is utilized once it has been posted. Sensitive information may end up being extensively disseminated and may be used maliciously as a result.

Personalized Marketing

Social media companies utilize the information they gather about users to target them with adverts relevant to their interests and usage patterns. Although this could be useful, it might also cause consumers to worry about their privacy since they might feel that their personal information is being used without their permission. Furthermore, there are issues with the integrity of the data being used to target users and the possibility of prejudice based on individual traits.

Government Surveillance

Using social media might spark worries about government surveillance. There are significant concerns regarding privacy and free expression when governments in some nations utilize social media platforms to follow and monitor residents.

In conclusion, social media use raises significant concerns regarding data collecting and privacy. While these platforms make it easy to interact with people and exchange information, they also gather a lot of personal information, which raises questions about who may access it and how it will be used. Users should be aware of these privacy issues and take precautions to safeguard their personal information, such as exercising caution when choosing what details to disclose on social media and keeping their information sharing with other firms to a minimum.

The Ethical and Privacy Concerns Surrounding Social Media Use And Data Collection

Our use of social media to communicate with loved ones, acquire information, and even conduct business has become a crucial part of our everyday lives. The extensive use of social media does, however, raise some ethical and privacy issues that must be resolved. The influence of social media use and data collecting on user rights, the accountability of social media businesses, and the need for improved regulation are all topics that will be covered in this article.

Effect on Individual Privacy:

Social networking sites gather tons of personal data from their users, including delicate information like search history, location data, and even health data. Each user's detailed profile may be created with this data and sold to advertising or used for other reasons. Concerns regarding the privacy of personal information might arise because social media businesses can use this data to target users with customized adverts.

Additionally, individuals might need to know how much their personal information is being gathered and exploited. Data breaches or the unauthorized sharing of personal information with other parties may result in instances where sensitive information is exposed. Users should be aware of the privacy rules of social media firms and take precautions to secure their data.

Responsibility of Social Media Companies:

Social media firms should ensure that they responsibly and ethically gather and use user information. This entails establishing strong security measures to safeguard sensitive information and ensuring users are informed of what information is being collected and how it is used.

Many social media businesses, nevertheless, have come under fire for not upholding these obligations. For instance, the Cambridge Analytica incident highlighted how Facebook users' personal information was exploited for political objectives without their knowledge. This demonstrates the necessity of social media corporations being held responsible for their deeds and ensuring that they are safeguarding the security and privacy of their users.

Better Regulation Is Needed

There is a need for tighter regulation in this field, given the effect, social media has on individual privacy as well as the obligations of social media firms. The creation of laws and regulations that ensure social media companies are gathering and using user information ethically and responsibly, as well as making sure users are aware of their rights and have the ability to control the information that is being collected about them, are all part of this.

Additionally, legislation should ensure that social media businesses are held responsible for their behavior, for example, by levying fines for data breaches or the unauthorized use of personal data. This will provide social media businesses with a significant incentive to prioritize their users' privacy and security and ensure they are upholding their obligations.

In conclusion, social media has fundamentally changed how we engage and communicate with one another, but this increased convenience also raises several ethical and privacy issues. Essential concerns that need to be addressed include the effect of social media on individual privacy, the accountability of social media businesses, and the requirement for greater regulation to safeguard user rights. We can make everyone's online experience safer and more secure by looking more closely at these issues.

In conclusion, social media is a complex and multifaceted topic that has recently captured the world's attention. With its ever-growing influence on our lives, it's no surprise that it has become a popular subject for students to explore in their writing. Whether you are writing an argumentative essay on the impact of social media on privacy, a persuasive essay on the role of social media in politics, or a descriptive essay on the changes social media has brought to the way we communicate, there are countless angles to approach this subject.

However, writing a comprehensive and well-researched essay on social media can be daunting. It requires a thorough understanding of the topic and the ability to articulate your ideas clearly and concisely. This is where Jenni.ai comes in. Our AI-powered tool is designed to help students like you save time and energy and focus on what truly matters - your education. With Jenni.ai , you'll have access to a wealth of examples and receive personalized writing suggestions and feedback.

Whether you're a student who's just starting your writing journey or looking to perfect your craft, Jenni.ai has everything you need to succeed. Our tool provides you with the necessary resources to write with confidence and clarity, no matter your experience level. You'll be able to experiment with different styles, explore new ideas , and refine your writing skills.

So why waste your time and energy struggling to write an essay on your own when you can have Jenni.ai by your side? Sign up for our free trial today and experience the difference for yourself! With Jenni.ai, you'll have the resources you need to write confidently, clearly, and creatively. Get started today and see just how easy and efficient writing can be!

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Essay on Social Media Censorship

Students are often asked to write an essay on Social Media Censorship in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Social Media Censorship

Social media censorship: a double-edged sword.

Social media platforms have become powerful tools for sharing information, connecting with others, and expressing ourselves. But with great power comes great responsibility. In recent years, there has been a growing debate about the role of social media companies in regulating content. Should they be allowed to censor posts that they deem to be harmful or offensive?

The Case for Censorship

Proponents of social media censorship argue that it is necessary to protect users from harmful content. They point to the spread of misinformation, hate speech, and cyberbullying as evidence that social media companies need to do more to regulate content.

The Case against Censorship

Opponents of social media censorship argue that it is a violation of free speech. They argue that social media companies should not have the power to decide what is and is not acceptable speech.

The Way Forward

The debate over social media censorship is complex. There are valid arguments on both sides of the issue. Ultimately, it is up to each individual to decide whether they believe that social media companies should be allowed to censor content.

250 Words Essay on Social Media Censorship

What is social media censorship.

Social media censorship is when companies that run social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, decide to remove or hide certain content from their users. This can happen for many reasons. Sometimes, it’s to keep harmful or inappropriate material away from users, especially younger ones. Other times, it might be because the content breaks the rules of the platform.

Why Do Platforms Censor Content?

The main reason social media sites censor content is to create a safe and welcoming environment for all users. They want to make sure that nothing offensive, violent, or misleading spreads on their platforms. This is important because a lot of people, including kids, use social media to learn, share, and connect with others.

The Debate Around Censorship

Not everyone agrees with social media censorship. Some people think that it limits freedom of speech. They argue that even if some content is unpleasant, people should have the right to share their thoughts and opinions freely. On the other hand, others believe that censorship is necessary to protect users from harmful content and misinformation.

In conclusion, social media censorship is a complex issue. It’s about finding the right balance between protecting users and allowing free speech. As social media continues to play a big role in our lives, this debate is likely to go on. Understanding both sides of the argument can help us form our own opinions on this important topic.

500 Words Essay on Social Media Censorship

Social media is a place where we connect with our friends and family, share our thoughts and ideas, and learn about the world around us. But what happens when our access to social media is restricted? That’s called censorship.

Who Censors Social Media?

Social media companies can censor content in a number of ways. They can remove posts, block users, or even shut down entire accounts. Governments can also censor social media by requiring companies to remove certain content or by blocking access to social media platforms altogether.

Why Do Companies Censor Social Media?

There are a number of reasons why social media companies might censor content. They may want to protect their users from harmful or offensive content or they may be trying to comply with government regulations.

Why Do Governments Censor Social Media?

Governments may censor social media in order to control the flow of information or to suppress dissent. They may also censor social media in order to protect national security.

The Dangers of Censorship

Censorship can have a number of negative consequences. It can prevent people from accessing important information, it can stifle freedom of expression, and it can create a climate of fear and intimidation.

What Can Be Done About Censorship?

There are a number of things that can be done to address the problem of censorship. We can support organizations that are fighting for freedom of expression, we can speak out against censorship, and we can use technology to circumvent censorship.

Social media censorship is a serious problem that threatens our freedom of expression and our access to information. We need to be aware of the dangers of censorship and we need to take action to protect our rights.

That’s it! I hope the essay helped you.

If you’re looking for more, here are essays on other interesting topics:

  • Essay on Social Media Bullying Prevention
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Supreme Court Wary of States’ Bid to Limit Federal Contact With Social Media Companies

A majority of the justices appeared convinced that government officials should be able to try to persuade private companies, whether news organizations or tech platforms, not to publish information so long as the requests are not backed by coercive threats.

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A reflection shows the Supreme Court. The building is in the background.

Adam Liptak

Reporting from Washington

Here’s the latest on the First Amendment case.

A majority of the Supreme Court seemed wary on Monday of a bid by two Republican-led states to limit the Biden administration’s interactions with social media companies, with several justices questioning the states’ legal theories and factual assertions.

Most of the justices appeared convinced that government officials should be able to try to persuade private companies, whether news organizations or tech platforms, not to publish information so long as the requests are not backed by coercive threats.

The dispute was the latest in an extraordinary series of cases this term requiring the justices to assess the meaning of free speech in the internet era.

Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Elena Kagan, both former White House lawyers, said interactions between administration officials and news outlets provided a valuable analogy. Efforts by officials to influence coverage are, they said, part of a valuable dialogue that is not prohibited by the First Amendment.

Members of the court also raised questions about whether the plaintiffs — Missouri and Louisiana, along with five individuals — had suffered the kind of injury that gave them standing to sue. They also suggested that a broad injunction prohibiting contacts between many officials and the platforms was not a proper remedy in any event.

“I don’t see a single item in your briefs that would satisfy our normal tests,” Justice Kagan told J. Benjamin Aguiñaga, Louisiana’s solicitor general.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor accused the states of distorting the record in the case. “I have such a problem with your brief,” she told Mr. Aguiñaga. “You omit information that changes the context of some of your claims. You attribute things to people who it didn’t happen to.”

Mr. Aguiñaga apologized “if any aspect of our brief was not as forthcoming as it should have been.”

The justices peppered Mr. Aguiñaga with hypothetical questions about national security, doxxing of public officials and contests that could endanger teenagers, all suggesting that there is a role for vigorous efforts by the government to combat harmful speech.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the member of the court who appeared most sympathetic to the states’ position, urged his colleagues to remain focused on the case before them.

“Whatever coercion means,” he said, “whatever happened here is sufficient.”

The case arose from a barrage of communications from administration officials urging platforms to take down posts on topics like the coronavirus vaccines and claims of election fraud. Last year, a federal appeals court severely limited such interactions .

The Supreme Court put that injunction on hold last year while it considered the administration’s appeal. If it were to go into effect, said Brian H. Fletcher, a lawyer for the government, it would prohibit all sorts of speech, including public comments from the press secretary or other senior officials seeking to discourage posts harmful to children or conveying antisemitic or Islamophobic messages.

He added that the social media companies had been moderating content on their platforms long before they were contacted by officials, had powerful business incentives to do so and were following their own policies. The companies acted independently of the government, he said, and often rejected requests to take down postings.

“These were sophisticated parties,” he said. “They routinely said no to the government. They weren’t open about it. They didn’t hesitate to do it. And when they said no to the government, the government never engaged in any sort of retaliation.”

Justice Alito said the volume and intensity of the contacts were troubling, as was the suggestion in some of them that the government and the platforms were partners in an effort to combat misinformation about the pandemic.

Mr. Fletcher responded that the messages had to be understood “in the context of an effort to get Americans vaccinated during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic” at “a time when thousands of Americans were still dying every week.” The platforms, he added, acknowledged “a responsibility to give people accurate information.”

Mr. Aguiñaga presented a different picture of the relationship between the government and the platforms.

“Behind closed doors, the government badgers the platforms 24/7,” he said. “It abuses them with profanity. It warns that the highest levels of the White House are concerned. It ominously says that the White House is considering its options.”

“Under this onslaught,” he added, “the platforms routinely cave.”

The court this term has repeatedly grappled with fundamental questions about the scope of the government’s authority over major technology platforms. On Friday, the court set rules for when government officials can block users from their private social media accounts. Last month, the court considered the constitutionality of laws in Florida and Texas that limit large social media companies from making editorial judgments about which messages to allow.

Those four cases, along with the one on Monday, will collectively rebalance the power of the government and powerful technology platforms in the realm of free speech.

A second argument on Monday posed a related constitutional question about government power and free speech, though not in the context of social media sites. It concerns whether a state official in New York violated the First Amendment by encouraging companies to stop doing business with the National Rifle Association. The justices appeared to be favoring the gun rights group.

The states in Monday’s first case, Murthy v. Missouri, No. 23-411, did not dispute that the platforms were entitled to make independent decisions about what to feature on their sites. But they said the conduct of government officials in urging them to take down what they say is misinformation amounted to censorship that violated the First Amendment.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed, saying that officials from the White House, the surgeon general’s office, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the F.B.I. had most likely crossed constitutional lines in their bid to persuade platforms to take down posts about what they had flagged as misinformation.

The panel, in an unsigned opinion , said the officials had become excessively entangled with the platforms or used threats to spur them to act. The panel entered an injunction forbidding many officials to coerce or significantly encourage social media companies to remove content protected by the First Amendment.

The Biden administration filed an emergency application in September asking the Supreme Court to pause the injunction, saying that the government was entitled to express its views and to try to persuade others to take action.

The court granted the administration’s application , put the Fifth Circuit’s ruling on hold and agreed to hear the case.

Three justices dissented. “Government censorship of private speech is antithetical to our democratic form of government, and therefore today’s decision is highly disturbing,” Justice Alito wrote, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch.

Those same three justices voiced the most skepticism of the Biden administration’s position at Monday’s argument.

Other justices asked about government interactions with the press. Justice Kavanaugh, who served in the White House in the administration of President George W. Bush, said that it was “probably not uncommon for government officials to protest an upcoming story on surveillance or detention policy and say, you know, if you run that it’s going to harm the war effort and put Americans at risk.”

That was perfectly proper, he suggested, adding that it would be a different matter if the request were backed by a threat of an antitrust action.

Justice Kavanaugh said he understood, based on his earlier government service, that there are “experienced government press people throughout the federal government who regularly call up the media and berate them.”

Justice Kagan echoed the point.

“Like Justice Kavanaugh,” she said, “I’ve had some experience encouraging the press to suppress their own speech.”

She sketched out some of those conversations: “You just wrote a bad editorial. Here are the five reasons you shouldn’t write another one. You just wrote a story that’s filled with factual errors. Here are the 10 reasons why you shouldn’t do that again.”

“I mean,” she said, “this happens literally thousands of times a day in the federal government.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., another former White House lawyer, registered a lighthearted dissent, to laughter. “I have no experience coercing anybody,” he said.

But he added that the government is not monolithic and that different parts of it may hold and press competing views.

Justice Alito, who has been the subject of critical news coverage, seemed taken by the idea of pushing back against it, wondering aloud whether the court’s public information officer was in the courtroom.

“Maybe she should take a note about this,” he said. “So whenever they write something that we don’t like, she can call them up and curse them out and say ‘Why don’t we be partners? We’re on the same team.’”

What happens next? The court will probably not issue a decision until June.

Now that the arguments in the case are complete, the justices will cast tentative votes at a private conference in the coming days. The senior justice in the majority will then assign the majority opinion to a colleague — or keep it. Draft opinions, most likely including concurrences and dissents, will be prepared and exchanged.

On average, it takes the Supreme Court about three months after an argument to issue a decision. But rulings in a term’s more important cases — and this one qualifies — tend not to arrive until near the end of the term in June, no matter how early they were argued.

There are other reasons to think the decision will not arrive until late June. The case was argued in the court’s next-to-last two-week sitting, and the court will be busy this month and next with arguments on abortion and former President Donald J. Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution on charges that he plotted to overturn the 2020 election.

The decision must also be harmonized with rulings in related cases, including ones on whether states may prohibit technology platforms from deleting posts based on the viewpoints they express and whether a state official in New York violated the First Amendment by encouraging companies to stop doing business with the National Rifle Association.

Scholars have given varied explanations for why the biggest cases tend to land in June, no matter when they were argued. One is that justices keep polishing the opinions that will define their legacies until the last possible moment.

A 2015 study in The Duke Law Journal suggested a more personal reason: “The justices, most of whom have busy social schedules in Washington, may want to avoid tensions at their social functions by clustering the most controversial cases in the last week or two of the term — that is, just before they leave Washington for their summer recess.”


The court is hearing a related case on the N.R.A.

The question in the social media case is in one sense about government power over the internet. But at bottom it is about something more fundamental: striking the right balance between government advocacy for its policies, which is permissible, and coercion backed by threats of punishment, which is not.

The justices will return to that tension in Monday’s second argument, over whether a state official in New York violated the First Amendment by encouraging companies to stop doing business with the National Rifle Association after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

That question is at a general level the same as the one in the social media case, and its answer will also involve finding the constitutional line between persuasion and coercion.

The second case, National Rifle Association v. Vullo, No. 22-842, concerns the activities of Maria Vullo, a former superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services. In the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Ms. Vullo said banks and insurance companies should consider whether they wanted to provide services to the group.

The N.R.A. sued, saying Ms. Vullo’s efforts leveraged government power in a way that violated the First Amendment.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, ruled against the N.R.A. Judge Denny Chin , writing for the panel, acknowledged that government officials may not “use their regulatory powers to coerce individuals or entities into refraining from protected speech.

“At the same time, however,” he wrote, “government officials have a right — indeed, a duty — to address issues of public concern.”

Ms. Vullo’s actions were on the right side of the constitutional line, Judge Chin wrote. Key documents, he said, “were written in an evenhanded, nonthreatening tone and employed words intended to persuade rather than intimidate.”

In its petition seeking Supreme Court review , the N.R.A. said the appeals court’s ruling could have sweeping consequences.

“The Second Circuit’s opinion below gives state officials free rein to financially blacklist their political opponents — from gun-rights groups to abortion-rights groups to environmentalist groups and beyond,” the petition said.

One sign that the N.R.A. has a plausible First Amendment argument: It is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union . David Cole, the A.C.L.U.’s national legal director, will argue the case on behalf of the gun rights group.

“In this hyper-polarized environment, where few are willing to cross the aisle on anything,” Mr. Cole said, “the fact that the A.C.L.U. is defending the N.R.A. here only underscores the importance of the free-speech principle at stake.”

Charlie Savage

Charlie Savage

Oral arguments in the case are over.

Fletcher, the Justice Department lawyer, is now back for rebuttal.

Jim Rutenberg

Jim Rutenberg

Justice Jackson asks Aguiñaga whether government can’t move against harm, like posts that might lead teens to commit suicide, and can’t tell the platforms to move to reduce the posts. Aguiñaga says the government can call platforms to say there’s a problem, but can’t apply pressure to remove that content.

“Is it your view that the government authorities could not declare those circumstances a public emergency and encourage social media platforms to take down the information that is instigating this problem?” “Your honor, the government absolutely can use the pulpit to say publicly, here’s what we recognize to be a public health issue, emergency. We this is obviously extremely terrible and the public shouldn’t tolerate this. Platforms — we see it’s going on on the platforms — but they can’t call the platforms and say, listen, we really think you should be taking this down because look at the problems that it’s causing.” “If it’s protected speech, your honor, then I think we get closer. But like, look, if you think that that’s if that’s clearly the way you’re asking the question, I understand that the instinct that that may, you know, may not be a First Amendment issue. I guess what I fall back on, your honor, is that at least where the government itself — there is no emergency like this. There’s nothing —” “No, my hypothetical is there is an emergency. My hypothetical is that there is an emergency, and I guess I’m asking you in that circumstance, can the government call the platforms and say this information that you are putting up on your platform is creating a serious public health emergency? We are encouraging you to take it down.” “I was with you right until that last comment, your honor. I think they absolutely can call and say this is a problem. It’s going rampant on your platforms. But the moment that the government tries to use its ability as the government and its stature as the government to pressure them to take it down, that is when you’re interfering with the third-party speech rights.”

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Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson asks if the government could actually tell platforms they needed to take down leaked classified information. Aguiñaga, the Louisiana lawyer, says the government could do that. “I think that would be a great example where strict scrutiny would be in the government’s favor.”

“Part of the reason why you might be running into all of these difficulties with respect to the different factual circumstances is because you’re not focusing on the fact that there are times in which the government can, depending on the circumstances, encourage, perhaps even coerce, because they have a compelling interest in doing so. And so that’s why I keep coming back to the actual underlying First Amendment issue, which we can isolate in this case and just talk about about coercion. But I think that you have to admit that there are certain circumstances in which the government can provide information, encourage the platforms to take it down, tell them to take it down. I mean, what about what about the hypo of someone posting classified information? They say it’s my free speech right. I believe that, you know, I got access to this information and I want to post it. Are you suggesting that the government couldn’t say to the platforms, we need to take that down?” “No, your honor, because I think that would be a great example where strict scrutiny would cut in the government’s favor.”

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Heightening the problem of the flawed factual record undergirding the litigation, Justice Sotomayor starkly accuses Aguiñaga himself of distorting facts of what happened: “I have such a problem with your brief, counselor. You omit information that changes the context of some of your claims. You attribute things to people who it didn’t happen to — at least in one of the defendants, it was her brother that something happened to, not her. I don’t know what to make of all this because I am not sure how we get to prove direct injury in any way.”

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Aguiñaga apologizes if any of the brief is not “as forthcoming” as it should have been.

This exchange between Justice Kagan and Aguiñaga, in which the Louisiana lawyer concedes that it can be OK for the government to provide information to the platforms under some circumstances, shows the problem with having an unreliable factual record compiled by Judge Doughty about what actually happened. Fletcher is citing the district court’s findings to say the government crossed the line into official censorship, but are the specifics accurate?

Aguiñaga goes at a key issue in the government content moderation efforts of the past few years — what began as attempts to address foreign meddling and disinformation moved to cover speech from Americans in 2020, over an election and a pandemic.

In an exchange with Justice Kagan, Aguiñaga, the Louisiana lawyer, identifies a difference from the hypothetical Justice Kavanaugh brought up about government officials raising concerns with a newspaper about publishing an article: That is the government going directly to the speaker. What is “so pernicious” here is that the government is going to a third party — the platforms — and people may never learn about it.

Steven Lee Myers

Steven Lee Myers

Aguiñaga describes the communications between officials and the platforms as “unrelenting government pressure” going on outside of the public eye. “Pressuring platforms in back rooms, shielded from public view, is not using a bully pulpit. That’s just being a bully.”

The justices and Fletcher keep referencing a 1963 precedent, Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan . It centered on a state commission in Rhode Island that was empowered to notify distributors of certain books and magazines it considered to be obscene that it had decided the materials were objectionable, request its “cooperation,” and to advise them that the commission had a duty to recommend prosecution of purveyors of obscenity. The Supreme Court ruled that these notices intimidated businesses and resulted in the suppression of the sale of the books and magazines --- an unconstitutional system of informal censorship.

Aguiñaga disputes the Biden administration’s standard for the case: “We don’t need coercion as a theory,” he said. He said the government “cannot induce, encourage or promote” to get private actors to do what government cannot: censor Americans’ speech.

Benjamin Aguiñaga, the solicitor general of Louisiana, is now arguing. Louisiana is one of the Republican-controlled states that brought the lawsuit arguing that the government was coercing social media platforms into taking down posts, amounting to government censorship.

Justice Kavanaugh, a former lawyer in George W. Bush's White House, raises a national-security analogy. He notes that it’s “not uncommon” for government officials to protest to a newspaper an upcoming story on surveillance or detention policy and say, “If you run that, it is going to harm the war effort and put Americans at risk.” The implication is under the lower-court rulings, the government would not be allowed to express such concerns.

Fletcher, the government lawyer, agrees with Justice Kavanaugh that that is an example of a valuable interchange as long as it stays on the persuasion side of the line. “Platforms — newspapers — want to know if their publishing a story might put lives at risk. And they don’t have to listen to the government, but that’s information that they can consider when exercising their editorial judgment.”

Justice Kavanaugh adds that it would become problematic coercion if the government tacked on that “And if you publish the story we’re going to pursue antitrust action against you.” Fletcher agrees again with him: “Huge problem, yeah.”

Fletcher argues that the social media platforms are large companies with sufficient clout to rebuff government efforts to influence them. In fact, when university researchers working with the government flagged misinformation about the 2020 election, the platforms refused to do anything two-thirds of the time .

Justice Kavanaugh pivots back to the Biden “killing people” line and notes that in a national security context there is some history of the government warning media outlets that their stories threaten to endanger Americans’ lives.

Justice Kagan floated the idea of resolving the case by saying the plaintiffs were not entitled to an injunction because they could not show they faced an imminent threat of future harm at the time of litigation, without getting into past content moderation disputes. Fletcher, the government lawyer, agrees that would be the narrowest and easiest way to resolve the matter.

Fletcher, the government lawyer, argues that government officials can persuade a private party to do something the private party is lawfully allowed to do, even when the government could not do that thing itself. He gives various examples: when government officials called on colleges to do more about antisemitic speech on campuses after the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, encouraging parents to monitor their children’s cell phone usages, or internet companies to watch out for child sexual abuse on their platforms, even if the Fourth Amendment would prevent the government from doing that directly. Telling social media companies that the government thinks their algorithms or posting of certain things are causing harm is the same, he said.

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Here’s the moment Justice Gorsuch was referring to regarding the president’s “killing people” line.

Justice Gorsuch asks if President Biden’s statement that the platforms were “killing people” by allowing misinformation to flow in the middle of the pandemic would amount to coercion. Fletcher says the president made clear afterward it was “exhortation, not threat.”

Alito is saying he can’t imagine the federal government cajoling and threatening print media. Fletcher notes that there is that sort of back and forth with the press, but Alito is getting at the central unsettled element in all of these cases. The platforms are something different, they provide pipelines, but through their algorithms and rules they are also applying their own version of editorial standards.

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Justice Alito just demonstrated that he has bought into the misinformation in the lower court’s work, citing an example where a White House official said in an email to Facebook. “I want an answer on what happened here and I want it today.” In reality that (inappropriate) language was about getting a technical problem fixed with the presidential Instagram account, not about content moderation.

When Fletcher, the government lawyer, points out that the example Alito cited as happening repeatedly actually only happened once and had nothing to do with content moderation, Alito blows past the demonstration of his misunderstanding. “OK, well, put that aside. There’s all the rest.”

Fletcher raised an issue that some experts and research organizations involved in the case have: that many of communications cited in the lower courts included disputed facts, including quotations taken out of context.

Terry A. Doughty, the Trump-appointed district court judge who set the case off (after the Republican plaintiffs filed it in a place that would ensure he got the case) issued a ruling that has itself been criticized as being riddled with misinformation and conspiracy theories about what happened, setting up an unreliable factual record for the constitutional issues at play.

Here’s a recent item on the Just Security website that catalogs many ways Doughty torqued the facts to play into right-wing culture war notions — for example, falsely editing a quote in an email to Dr. Anthony Fauci to remove the word “published” before the words “take down” in a way that made it look like a scientist was urging steps to remove misinformation about vaccines, as opposed to publishing a rebuttal to it.

That goes to another major question in the case — did government action directly cause platforms to remove speech? The government has argued that it left it to platforms to make their own decisions as it flagged and even cajoled the companies about content.

Justice Samuel Alito and Fletcher, the government lawyer, are sparring over whether there are sufficient facts to show that the plaintiffs’ injuries — having their posts taken down to having accounts suspended by social media companies — were caused by government actions, giving them standing to seek an injunction. This is a major problem with this case, according to many legal observers.

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The question, as the rhetoric in the case has gone so far, is whether the White House used its classic “bully pulpit” or used its “pulpit to bully.”

Brian Fletcher, the principal deputy solicitor general for the Biden administration, argues that the government has a right to speak to social media companies in an attempt to persuade them to choose to remove or reduce certain matters, so long as it does not coerce them. He said the test should be whether the government makes threats; bully-pulpit exhortations are protected by the First Amendment, he argued.

Michael D. Shear

Michael D. Shear and David McCabe

Here’s how a Trump-appointed judge saw the Biden administration pressuring companies to censor speech.

This First Amendment case is a flashpoint in a broader effort by conservatives to document what they contend is a liberal conspiracy by Democrats and tech company executives to silence their views, and it taps into fury on the right about how social media companies have treated stories about the origins of Covid, the 2020 election and Hunter Biden, the president’s son.

The final outcome could shape the future of First Amendment law in a rapidly changing media environment and alter how far the government can go in trying to prevent the spread of potentially dangerous claims, particularly in an election or during emergencies like a pandemic.

The government’s actions at the heart of the case were intended largely as public health measures during the coronavirus pandemic. But a federal judge in Louisiana framed his ruling back in July through the filter of partisan culture wars — asking whether the government violated the First Amendment by unlawfully threatening the social media companies to censor speech that the Biden administration found distasteful and potentially harmful to the public.

In his ruling, Judge Terry A. Doughty described dozens of interactions between the administration and social media companies, including how two months after President Biden took office, his top digital adviser had emailed officials at Facebook urging them to do more to limit the spread of “vaccine hesitancy” on the social media platform.

Judge Doughty also outlined how officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had held “weekly sync” meetings with Facebook, once emailing the company 16 “misinformation” posts. And in the summer of 2021, he wrote, the surgeon general’s top aide had repeatedly urged Google, Facebook and Twitter to do more to combat disinformation.

The case sets up a showdown between the justices and a conservative appeals court.

The appeals court that partly upheld limits on the Biden administration’s communications with social media companies has a reputation for issuing decisions too conservative for the Supreme Court, which is itself tilted to the right by a six-justice supermajority of Republican appointees.

Of the appeals court’s 17 active judges, only five were appointed by Democratic presidents. Six members of the court were appointed by President Donald J. Trump.

The court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, hears appeals from federal trial courts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Those forums often attract ambitious lawsuits from conservative litigants correctly anticipating a favorable reception, and rulings from trial judges in those states are often affirmed by the Fifth Circuit.

But when those cases reach the Supreme Court, they sometimes fizzle out. An attack on the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, endorsed by three Trump appointees on the Fifth Circuit, did not seem to fare well before the justices when it was argued in October. Another, in which the Fifth Circuit struck down a federal law barring domestic abusers from carrying guns, was also met with skepticism .

Other rulings from the Fifth Circuit, on issues like immigration , abortion pills and so-called ghost guns , have also met with at least tentative disapproval from the Supreme Court, suggesting that the appeals court is out of step with the justices.

At a news briefing in September, Irv Gornstein, the executive director of Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute, said the Fifth Circuit had staked out positions that “at least some of the center bloc of conservatives aren’t going to be able to stomach.”

He added that some of the rulings by the Fifth Circuit were “delivered from Crazy Town” and that “it would be shocking if at least some of those decisions are not reversed.”

The case is one of several about the intersection of free speech and technology on the court’s docket.

The Supreme Court hears First Amendment cases fairly often. But it has never before considered as many cases on what the Constitution has to say about free speech in the internet era as it will in its current term, set to end in June.

Monday’s argument will be the fifth one since October considering the fundamental question of the scope of government power over social media platforms. The decision in that case and the four others will collectively mark the boundaries of free expression in the digital age.

Last month, the Supreme Court considered two cases on whether Florida and Texas could limit prominent social media companies from moderating content on their platforms, appearing skeptical of the breadth of laws that had been enacted in an effort to shield conservative voices on technology sites.

On Friday, the court, in two unanimous rulings, set requirements for when elected officials could block people from their social media accounts.

The court’s decisions in the five cases will have broad political and economic implications. A ruling that tech platforms have no editorial discretion to decide which posts to allow, for instance, would expose users to a greater variety of viewpoints, but it would almost certainly amplify the ugliest aspects of the digital age, including hate speech and disinformation.

  • Social Issues

Argumentative Essay on Social Media

Today our world is full of a whole lot of opinionated people. Everyone loves to share what they think about almost any topic. Whether the topic is very important or completely irrelevant. Although everyone has opinions on things that are somewhat unimportant, some topics are worth discussing our opinions on. One of which that most definitely has some of the most diverse opinions on is social media. Many people think that social media is distracting, negative, and harmful, while others think it is one of the best things that has ever happened and are addicted to it. Some people love to scroll through Instagram or talk to people on Snapchat; However, they still think that the majority of the time social media is much more harmful than helpful. While Social media can provide a place to catch up with friends and things going on in the world, it also has the ability to completely tear lives apart and in some cases lead to depression or anxiety. People with social media should limit their time on these apps or even in some cases, delete the apps altogether due to the negative effects and all of the drama. 

How It Really Is

In contrast to what some people think, Social media is far more harmful than helpful. There are numerous reasons as to why social media is harmful, to start with, there is entirely too much drama and false information that spreads quickly all over social media apps. As a result of this, a whole lot of people are substantially more unhappy with themselves and with their lives. In some cases, social media is even likely to encourage people to do things they should not do and will regret later on in their lives. 

One example of this could be whenever somebody is bullying someone through Instagram and the pressure of being like everyone else could possibly make someone go along with it just because everyone else is doing it. Although a great deal of people claim they would never bully anyone, it is surprising how quickly social media can change a person and cause them to do things they wouldn’t expect to ever do. In the article “Social media websites can harm and help kids” by Nanci Hellmich, she states that “Facebook and other social media websites can enrich children’s lives, but they could also be hazardous to their mental and physical health” (Hellmich). 

This statement is completely agreeable because at first social media can be fun, but eventually it can become addictive and affect people negatively without them even realizing it. In quite a few instances, social media gets so awful to the point where people should delete it, however, it can be remarkably addicting, so people want to stay on it just to continue to see the drama and negative things happening instead of simply deleting the apps.

Not only does social media cause unhappiness and even depression in some cases, it can also be extremely distracting. For many people, social media is the most distracting out of everything in their lives. Not only does it prevent several important things, like doing chores or homework, it can even prevent spending time with friends and family, or even getting enough sleep at night. To start out, being on social media is mostly fun, however, the more time spent on it the more it gets to the point of taking over a tremendous part of people's lives. One example of this being a distraction is stated in the article “Social Networking: Helpful or Harmful”, “A lot of my friends and I spend a lot of time on Facebook, and it is often a big distraction from our work.” (Winkler), This is one of the various instances of somebody being distracted by and affected negatively by social media apps. This shows that social media being distracting is a problem many people with the apps face. 

Social media is quite a controversial topic in the world today. Some people believe it truly does have a negative impact on the world, while others may argue that social media is very entertaining and allows an opportunity to maintain connections with friends and family. Reports even say these sites and other technology can be useful to kids for staying in touch, socializing, entertainment, and even doing homework and that they can enhance kids’ creativity and help them develop technical skills (Hellmich). Although technology can be useful in some ways like for homework, it is more common that people will become distracted and end up on some other app while trying to do homework, which can lead to too much time spent online can squeeze out other important activities (Hellmich).

In conclusion, people with social media who believe that it is good for them should look around and see all of the various other ways it negatively affects others. Maybe if people who think social media is good and are not addicted to it start to encourage others to limit their time on the apps, our world today could become somewhat better with the relief of a little less negative effects caused by social media. With social media being as big of a deal as it is in our society, it is obvious that it is in all probability not going to come to an end. Although this will not happen, our society can prevent things like bullying and drama caused by social media by limiting our time on apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. 

Works cited

Hellmich, Nanci. “Social Media Websites Can Help and Harm Kids.” USA Today 

28 March 2011, pg. 1.

Winkler, Travis. “Social Networking: Helpful or Harmful.” The Daily 

Pennsylvania, 17 March 2009, pg. 2.

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Supreme Court to decide if White House went too far fighting social media misinformation

The case grew out of concern from conservatives that their views were being suppressed about 2020 election fraud, covid-19 origins and treatments and other issues..

argumentative essay on social media censorship

WASHINGTON − After Robert F. Kennedy Jr. suggested without evidence that baseball legend Hank Aaron’s death in 2021 was caused by a COVID-19 vaccine, the Biden administration pounced.

“Wanted to flag the below tweet and am wondering if we can get moving on the process for having it removed ASAP,” the digital director for the White House’s COVID response team wrote in an email to an official at Twitter.

What the White House viewed as an effort to correct misinformation about a life-saving vaccine during a pandemic, critics called an example of a broad pressure campaign by the federal government to quash views it doesn’t like.

Now the Supreme Court is being asked what boundaries to set .

If the justices place too many restrictions on how the government can work with private social media companies in areas such as public health, election integrity and foreign interference, it could impede efforts to stop harmful misinformation, experts say.

Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide

But if there aren’t enough guardrails, the government – whether a Democratic or Republican administration – could have too much power to influence debate in a public square dominated by social media.

“I think we need to figure out how to draw these lines more carefully in ways that protect legitimate speech from government suppression,” said Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth College who studies misperceptions about politics and health care. “But I'm concerned people are using that idea to try to shut down any kind of government information exchange with social media platforms, which I think could be harmful.”

Could the Supreme Court `destroy the internet'?

The Supreme Court takes up the issue Monday, three weeks after it heard challenges to laws passed by Florida and Texas to limit the ability of social media giants to regulate user content.

“This is the second major case in the last month in which the Supreme Court could destroy the internet, if it's not careful,” said James Grimmelmann, a professor of digital and information law at Cornell University. “They're unlikely to do that. But it's still a case in which they have to be very precise about what they say.”

Both cases grew out of concern from conservatives that their views were being suppressed about claims of 2020 election fraud, the origin of and treatments for COVID-19 and other issues, complaints that congressional Republicans have amplified with multiple hearings.

The GOP-controlled House last year passed legislation to prohibit federal employees from “advocating for censorship of viewpoints.” The bill , which has not advanced in the Democrat-controlled Senate, was a response to Twitter briefly blocking links to a  New York Post story  about  Hunter Biden’s laptop in 2020.

Former Twitter executives denied last year that they were pressured by Democrats and law enforcement to suppress the story.  Yoel Roth, Twitter's former head of trust and safety, who regularly communicated with the FBI about election security issues, testified at a congressional hearing that the agency was always careful “not to cross the line into advocating for Twitter to take any particular action.”

Lower courts sided with challengers

In the case before the Supreme Court Monday, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and numerous other federal officials are being sued by the Republican attorney generals in Missouri and Louisiana and by five social media users who said their posts or accounts were removed or downgraded.

Kennedy, who is running for president as an independent and contends in a filing “there may be no more individual in the country more heavily targeted for social media censorship by the federal government,” has a separate suit still working its way through the court system.

One of the challengers being represented on Monday, Jill Hines, co-director of the conservative Health Freedom Louisiana group, said the warnings she received from Facebook included one for sharing a screenshot of a Kennedy tweet and one for her post of a Daily Mail story headlined, “Face masks may raise risk of stillbirths, testicular dysfunction and cognitive decline due to build-up of carbon dioxide, study warns.”

The study referenced included no evidence that masks cause serious health problems, according to PolitiFact , a nonpartisan factchecking site.

A district court in Louisiana sided with Hines and other challengers, imposing sweeping restrictions on the government’s interaction with social media platforms.

The New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit narrowed the restraints but the Justice Department said they would still place unprecedented limits on how government officials can speak about matters of public concern, address national security threats or relay public health information.

The restrictions are on hold while the Supreme Court reviews the case.

Three justices have already criticized `government censorship'

Three of the court’s six conservative justices –Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch – wanted to reject the federal government’s appeal.

"Government censorship of private speech is antithetical to our democratic form of government, and therefore today’s decision is highly disturbing," Alito wrote when the court agreed to take the case.

The Justice Department argues public officials’ interaction with social media platforms was not coercive, nor did it involve “significant encouragement.” Government agencies “largely provided the platforms with information, leaving it up to the platforms to decide what action to take, if any,” the government’s lawyers wrote in a filing .

More: Mask mandates? Supreme Court rejects appeal from Marjorie Taylor Greene, GOP lawmakers

Lawyers for some of the challengers say that unless what’s being shared is illegal – such as child pornography – the First Amendment doesn’t allow the government to mediate “between true speech and false speech.”

“It's not the government's role, and never has been the government's role, to be the truth police,” said Mark Chenoweth, president and chief legal officer of the New Civil Liberties Alliance. The group represents the infectious disease experts who co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration, which advocated lifting COVID-19 restrictions on lower-risk groups to promote "herd immunity."

Persuasion or coercion?

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University said the Supreme Court needs to clarify the line between permissible persuasion and impermissible coercion – and must emphasize that applying that standard should include a full examination of the facts and context.

In Monday's case, for example, President Joe Biden’s public statement that social media companies were “killing people” by not sufficiently combatting misinformation about vaccines may have exerted public pressure but did not carry a retaliatory threat even if the word choice was provocative, according to the institute , which reviewed some of the charges.

The challengers’ objection to an internal email sent from a Biden COVID adviser to a Facebook official is trickier. Complaining that “100% of the questions I asked have never been answered and weeks have gone by,” the official wrote: “Internally we have been considering our options on what to do about it.”

The email sounded accusatory and demanding and could be read as an implicit threat of regulatory retaliation, according to the institute.

However the Supreme Court comes down in this case − and in its pending ruling on the Texas and Florida social media laws – the ramifications could be far-reaching.

Olivier Sylvain, an expert on communications law at Fordham University and a research fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute, called it a “special, maybe even once in a generation, opportunity to define how far governments may go to protect against the online distribution of lawful and unlawful harmful content.” 

Contributing: Bart Jansen, Jessica Guynn, John Kennedy of USA TODAY.

More: Supreme Court sounds skeptical of Texas and Florida laws to regulate social media

Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in Pivotal NCLA Case Against Gov’t Social Media Censorship Administrative Static Podcast

The Supreme Court heard oral argument in NCLA's Murthy v. Missouri, considering whether to uphold a historic preliminary injunction granted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The injunction, temporarily stayed by the Court, would bar officials from the White House, CDC, FBI, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and Surgeon General’s office from coercing or significantly encouraging social media platforms to censor constitutionally protected speech. The injuries to NCLA’s clients—Drs. Jayanta Bhattacharya, Aaron Kheriaty, and Martin Kulldorff, and Ms. Jill Hines—supplied standing for many of the arguments made in the courtroom, urging the Court to uphold the injunction in defense of Americans’ First Amendment rights. In this episode, Mark and Vec discuss the oral argument and the case.  See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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argumentative essay on social media censorship

RFK Jr. says he can ‘make an argument’ that Biden is ‘greater threat’ to democracy than Trump

I ndependent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., said Monday that President Biden may be a “greater threat to democracy” than former President Trump, citing his own legal battle against the Biden administration over social media censorship.

Kennedy said in a  CNN interview  with Erin Burnett on Monday that he could “make an argument” that Biden is worse, although he acknowledged that Trump is also a threat.

“President Biden is a much worse threat to democracy,” he said. “And the reasons for that is President Biden is the first candidate in history, the first president in history that has used the federal agencies to censor political speech.”

Kennedy is suing the Biden administration over the administration’s request that his social media accounts be restricted in 2021. He  posted misinformation  claiming that baseball legend  Hank Aaron  died from complications of the COVID vaccine, which is not true, according to medical experts.

He  won an injunction  on the case last month, but it was stayed to await a pair of Supreme Court cases ruling on the executive branch’s authority to urge social media censorship brought by GOP attorneys general.

The Supreme Court  heard oral arguments  for two social media cases last month, which claim the Biden White House illegally coerced social media companies to censor accounts because they were spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

Kennedy argued that the alleged censorship makes Biden the greatest threat.

“I can argue that President Biden is [the greatest threat] because the First Amendment, Erin, is the most important,” he said. “Adams and Hamilton and Madison said we put a guarantee of freedom of expression in the First Amendment because all of our other constitutional rights depend on it.”

The comments attacking Biden come as the president and Democrats increase criticism of Kennedy, as concerns rise over his possible impact on the 2024 election. 

While Kennedy is not in contention to win any states in November, Democratic analysts fear he could take votes away from Biden in key states and lead to a Trump victory.

Kennedy did add criticism of Trump as well, when pushed by Burnett, noting that Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election were “appalling” and made the former president also a threat.

The independent has been averaging  close to 10 percent  in polling from The Hill/Decision Desk HQ, making him the highest polling third-party candidate in a presidential race since businessman  Ross Perot  in 1992. In a five-way race that includes Jill Stein and Cornel West, Kennedy is at 10 percent in the RealClearPolitics  national average .

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.

RFK Jr. says he can ‘make an argument’ that Biden is ‘greater threat’ to democracy than Trump


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