The clash between U.S. President Donald Trump and social media companies is making waves. It’s a problem that involves freedom of expression, one of the roots of democracy. America’s shaky disposition is our concern as well.
It all started when Twitter objected to one of Trump’s posts in late May. The tweet claimed that voting by mail in the November presidential election would be rife with fraud. Then Twitter added a note so that the text would not create misunderstanding.
Trump is the one who escalated the affair. Claiming that social media companies steal freedom of speech, he signed an executive order restricting them. But Twitter did not flinch, and Facebook and other social media companies followed by developing their definitions of problematic posts.
Opinions about the executive order are divided even within America. Information technology rights groups have sued on the grounds that it is revenge against social media companies and suppression of free speech. On the other hand, voices calling for social media companies to be neutral regarding the information users post are also deeply rooted.
Social media is an information infrastructure that supports modern society. Regulations against its companies should be widely debated, including among its users. Moving things along by the president’s arbitrary decisions is too rough.
In any case, Trump must maintain moderation. His wild outbursts on social media garner a certain degree of support, but The Washington Post found close to 20,000 examples of misinformation or statements that invite misunderstanding since his inauguration.
The president’s statements are treated as public records, even on social media. His posts triggered an intensification of the protests against violent Black deaths. The contents of his tweets should be chosen very carefully.
There are also many things that social media companies should do. In America, internet companies are not considered liable for what their users post. This law was passed in 1996. The role of these companies has greatly changed in a quarter-century.
This was made painfully clear in the 2016 presidential election. A great deal of personal information leaked on Facebook permitted Russia to interfere in the election with fake news.
Social media’s influence already exceeds that of traditional media. To avoid the mistakes of 2016, the times surely demand certain voluntary measures like more monitoring of malicious posts.
In Japan, problems like online slander are also serious. Countermeasures must not be spared. We would also like users to consider their actions so as not to invite severe censorship. The public must aim for a healthy online society. We are not like China, Russia, or others, where speech is controlled.