While scrolling through Twitter today with Schenck v. United States in mind, I realized that if the same rules from 100 years ago applied today that a lot of people would be in trouble. Not only the people who post threatening or hateful things would be punished, but everyone who likes or retweets it would too. But when you really think about it, how of many of these people are actually going to go through with whatever they are saying? The scary thought that pops up is that some of them might.
As of right now, most social media platforms say that they have a way of dealing with this type of language or behavior but it has become notoriously evident that they are mostly all talk. For example, a year ago actress and comedienne Leslie Jones was the target of hackers from the alt-right, a group not usually associated with tolerance and non-prejudiced activities. After weeks of what Jones called a “personal hell” Twitter finally stepped in and did what they had promised to do from the start. The accounts were banned but this incident shed a light on how little interference there was when it came to defending someone being virtually attacked right under their nose. When it comes to problems like these, they should definitely boost the monitoring because verbally abusing a woman and posting her private information online are things that undoubtedly need to be put down immediately.
Now, when it comes to things that are most likely harmless jokes, it is harder to say.
What some see as harmless or as jokes, others may not and that’s what makes this more of a gray area. By now, most people are able to tell when someone is being serious or when they are just messing around.
For instance, there have been tons and tons of online threats made against the president but, as far as I know, no one has been arrested for them, or at least no one who was taken seriously. Maybe it’s just because I find pleasure in some of the jokes I come across that I don’t find them threatening but others who think differently than me most certainly might. I don’t think that these not-so-friendly posts necessarily call for immediate action but if it’s a constant occurrence for one user, then maybe a close eye should be kept on them. One disturbed individual should not ruin everyone’s fun.
All of this, however, could probably only happen in a perfect world, which we are far from. The monitoring of all of the social media accounts ever made would be no easy task but there should definitely be a solution that stops people from getting away with flat-out abuse. People post things that they don’t really mean all the time so by getting rid of them, you would pretty much be outlawing the art of exaggeration- and then the president would really be in trouble.
Camry Bishop, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Fall 2017 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the prompt: In Schenck v US, the Supreme Court held that the freedom of speech could be restricted if the words spoken or printed represented to society a “clear and present danger.” We live in a society in which our thoughts can be read instantly and out of context i.e. tweets, ig posts, FB posts, etc. These posts, even if said jokingly, have potential to seriously scare people. At what point should social media interaction (if at all) be monitored, or have we grown so used to #FakeNews that no such filter is needed?