Friday, December 9, 2016

Combatting fake news, conspiracy theories and hate speech through terms of service

The solution to the proliferation of fake news, conspiracy theories and hate speech littering social media can be found in the terms of service agreements those platforms use.
People using Facebook, Twitter and other social media can’t claim to have free speech protections on those commercial services. They are subject to the terms of service that they agreed to when they signed up and whenever those terms are updated.
The First Amendment only protects citizens from censorship by the government, not commercial services. To be on those services you have to agree to their rules.
If social media cracked down on hate speech, conspiracy theories and fake news half as hard as some enforce copyright restrictions, there wouldn’t be a problem.
Social media services should allow users to flag content they believe violates their terms of service. They can remove that content and warn people who maliciously spread alarming content that they can be kicked off the service.
Social media services should have a fair appeals process for those who believe they were wrongfully censored or terminated.
Until now, social media services have been pretty lenient about what is shared on their platforms. They wanted as many users and as much activity as possible to drive advertising revenue.
But the rise of alarming content on those services has made them less inviting places to be, so it makes good business sense to pivot.

Photo: Graphic from Snopes.com article titled “Snopes’ Field Guide to Fake News Sites and Hoax Purveyors.”

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