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Are Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms trending towards censorship?

The First Amendment protects you from the government silencing your freedom of speech, not a private company

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach. 

President Trump's Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts were indefinitely banned after his posts on these sites incited a deadly riot at the Capitol. 

Intellectual property attorney Will Irvine explained the First Amendment protects you from the government silencing your freedom of speech, not a private company. 

"In this case what we have are private companies exercising their right to run their business as they are fit including by establishing standards and rules for the type of speech that people can engage in on their platforms," Irvine said. 

Irvine said, under Section 230, these social media companies are given broad immunity from private lawsuits for content posted by their users. 

"It gives them some protection to exercise editorial control over the content that is posted on their sites, so they can remove objectionable or offensive material that appears on their platform," Irvine said.

Dr. Amanda Edgar, a media professor at the University of Memphis, said these companies are enforcing their policies for moderating the content and not exactly censoring it. 

"We didn’t see any major change to what the terms of service of the websites are," Edgar said. "All we saw was one very public incident if someone’s account being blocked."

She explained if your account has not been flagged for violating the terms of use before then it won't start now. In Trump's case, Edgar believes the rules just weren't being enforced until after ensued.

"I think at that point it was the last straw, but it wasn’t exactly that but the last straw in a whole pile of straws," Edgar said. "This is not a new case that’s being discussed."

No matter who you are, the rules are there to be followed and your "freedom of speech" is not necessarily applicable on these platforms. 

"When we sign up for the site, we agree to follow those rules," Edgar said. "That’s the same for Donald Trump and the same for any of us that are on Facebook or Twitter."

If you are curious to see what is allowed on any of the social media sites you are a user of, both Edgar and Irvine advise rereading the terms of the agreement. 

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