5 Free speech, politics, and government

  1. Russian hacking during the 2016 election manipulated the internet and preyed on gullible and disenfranchised individuals. How do we spot fake news? How do we stop it? Despite efforts to label fake news, people will always believe what they want to. Are these efforts to factcheck and retract false information in vain?
  2. In July 2019, a federal appeals court decreed that U.S. President Donald Trump cannot block “haters” on Twitter on the basis of the First Amendment.
    1. Trump’s opinions on certain companies and people place them under scrutiny. This erratic behavior could cause serious international incidents. Should public figures share their thoughts on social media?
    2. Could the block function contribute to echo chambers that encourage radical ideas? Should social media apps remove this feature?
  3. Numerous political prisoners in China have been jailed for expressing unpopular or contrary views on the internet. Despite obvious free speech violations, U.S. companies like Yahoo!, Google, and Facebook eager to tap into the Chinese market give in to Chinese censorship. How powerful is free speech if companies can pick and choose when and where to invoke it?
  4. In response to the Arab Spring, the Egyptian government cut off internet access, arrested bloggers and vloggers, and tracked social media posts. Scare tactics to reduce social media activity backfired, and the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was overthrown. How were the Egyptian government’s tactics similar and/or dissimilar to Chinese censorship? Should they be grouped in the same category of rights violations?

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