IN DEFENSE OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND MEDIA

Everyone who reads my posts on social media, especially in Ukrainian segments, knows how critical I am regarding Donald Trump, his political views and his policies.

Now, we came to a point and to issues when I have step in and as an expert in the field to defend Trump’s rights as a citizens of this country and to defend the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Let me remind you the First Amendment:

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

The Constitution doesn’t say that any person or any legal entity (corporation) has a right and can limit or prohibit “the freedom of speech, or of the press”. If it doesn’t say it, it means that my and anybody’s rights someone else can limit or prohibit.

For over centuries the First Amendment worked and actually helped to develop a strong American civil society and a great American media system. 

We remember as D. Trump himself after becoming a President was trying to put pressure on the American media and demanded that some media had to be shut down because they were too critical about his political views, his actions as a President and him personally. 

Thanks to the Construction of the United States, it didn’t happen. Fortunately, “the freedom of speech, or of the press” survived despite Trump’s willingness to shut up media he didn’t like or hated.

Now, we are witnessing attempts of American corporations that came into existence and became social media, and an instrument of exercising civil rights for “the freedom of speech, or of the press”, to silence the President of the United States, no matter good or bad, using their ability to ban, suspend or delete his account on their platforms.

This is a type of censorship when corporations take on the role of censors, i.e. bodies of totalitarian state power, using their technological and technical capabilities to limit opportunities of all those who do not suit them with their political views, likes and dislikes, their position, etc.

Trump is a person of such level, whose actions on the part of social media owners are gaining wide publicity. Something like this — deleting individual posts, blocking, suspending and deleting profiles, etc. — happens every day to each of us who is socially active on social networks.

Facebook, Twitter or other social media decide what and how has to be limited or prohibited in exercising our rights for “the freedom of speech, or of the press”. That’s why it our civil duty and responsibility to act respectfully to put our pressure on Facebook, Twitter and other social media and to force them to respect “the freedom of speech, or of the press”. 

We have to remind social media corporations founders and executives that their corporations were founded to provide us a possibility to exercise our rights for “the freedom of speech, or of the press”, and make money and gain profit nobody makes and gains in other business fields.

So, they are gone too far, and we — American society and societies of other free countries— unite to stop this corporate totalitarianism. One of the way to fight for our rights and to defend our freedom of the speech and freedom of the press (including social media) is to file massive class actions. 

January 10, 2021.

It’s my belief that social networks, which in recent years have taken over a lot from the mass media, especially the function of forming public opinion and expression of public opinion, should behave in the society according to the rules established for the media.

Some lawyers remind me that social networks are private companies, and therefore, they say, freedom of speech does not apply to them. This is a wrong position. After all, the media are also private legal entities. A newspaper may not publish your letter to the editor, but a newspaper or magazine, including an online one, allows you to publish texts whose content may not match the position of the owner, publisher, or editorial office, as stated in the publication’s source data. This is how the principle of freedom of speech and freedom of the press works. This is how social media should behave as well.

Of course, not everything can and should be published, but this is not a reason to ban and block the author, who is often ordered to do so by social networks, making it impossible to publish other, even loyal to the resource, texts. So, we have a situation where the owners or management of social networks went too far, establishing totalitarian control over their users, turning from a service provider into a kind of “slave owners” of minds, thoughts and views, which is typical of authoritarian-totalitarian regimes.

This is something that society needs to think about, and the government needs to look at this phenomenon in terms of antitrust law. But this is another topic for discussions.

Prof. Volodymyr Ivanenko,

PhD in Journalism and Mass Media, Master in American studies,

Ukrainian University Club

January 12, 2021.

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