Free speech in a social media world

In today’s day and age, debating the First Amendment happens rather frequently. In our nation’s capital, during family dinners, and especially on social media and college campuses. 

The Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Though the law seems quite clear, in the new age of social media, we seem to have run into a gray area. The biggest question being how these rights translate online. 

As a newspaper, the Blazer and its staff advocate strongly for the First Amendment and support the freedoms that it allows. However, social media has created a bit of an issue for credible news sources.

Our President often uses the term “fake news” to describe the media as a whole. This is problematic because it makes people distrustful of all media outlets, rather than the specific few that are in fact publishing fake news.

Often social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, only encourage widespread misinformation. It is vital that we educate ourselves in these areas before sharing information that may be inaccurate. 

These fake news stories are often made to get a reaction out of people. They have headlines that spark strong feelings in their readers. Whether that is an agreeable headline, a triggering one, or anything in between. This strategy pushes people to share or repost until the disease of misinformation spreads across the internet. 

It is an unfortunate reality, but many people will go to great lengths to gain an audience, whether that audience is in person or online. 

Speakers at college campuses and universities, for example, are often protested by students if their ideologies are more controversial in nature. Students have the right to gather and protest peacefully, just as the speakers have the right to free speech.

The issue comes when peaceful protest turns into violence and when these speakers use the platform provided by the campus to promote things like hate speech. 

No one should be censored, especially in a place of education. However, when hate speech and misinformation are being given a platform to grow, something must be changed. 

We at the Blazer support freedom of speech and expression. We pride ourselves on keeping students of JJC up-to-date on current events that impact them and their lives, and providing material that is relevant to them.

With the world at our fingertips, hatred is spreading like wildfire and violence and discrimination will continue to follow, unless we become our own advocates and educate ourselves fully; before forming a radical opinion.  

So before you repost or share, make sure that what you are sharing is factual and not created just to get a rise out of people. Knowledge is power and ignorance is bliss. If you choose to live a life of knowledge, ensuring that you have your facts correct will only help you in the future.