Social media doesn't mean public forum

Apr 18, 2018

Zach Edwards | Student

Social media platforms have been used as public forums for quite some time, but that does not mean they ought to be used in such a way. Terms and conditions, as well as community standards, are set in place on most, if not all, social media. These standards are in place to monitor the content users post.

The internet has proven to be a dangerous place with a lot of content that would not be suitable for all people to see. Children have access to the internet and need to be protected from content that would be unsuitable for them to see. This goes back to the idea that all speech is free but there are consequences for saying certain things. Another factor in creating community standards is the fact that users on social media can be anonymous if they choose. Anonymous users are not traceable to the common person, therefore any post they make can be hidden behind a false identity. Community standards are a way for the moderators of these social media to get in front of the inevitable fact that unmonitored anonymous people on the internet will post horrible things, pushing users away.

Terms and conditions keep social media the way they were originally intended, to build a community and to connect people when they cannot be together physically. Forcing new users to comply with community standards makes sure that the community the platform builds stays they way the platform intended in its conception. If the users go unmonitored, unwanted content will eventually get out of hand and the "good" users will not want to be a part of the community and move on to another platform.

Community standards are set in place by the owners and operators of these social media platforms simply to keep and build a user base. These social media are intended to be community-building tools, and with unwanted and possibly dangerous content a community would be extremely difficult to build. By monitoring the content that gets uploaded on the platform, operators of these social media sites can ensure a safe and at least semi-wholesome experience for all users.


Zachary Edwards, a student in Jon Pfeiffer's Spring 2018 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question:Do you think social media terms and conditions, such as Instagram's community standards, violates users' rights to free speech? Are social media platforms privately run companies and platforms that have the right to monitor use and establish rules or do you think social media functions more like a public forum?

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