Experts weigh in on the role social media platforms play in your First Amendment rights

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN-TV) —As social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook continue to monitor and even suspend some of their users, it’s brought up an important topic of freedom of speech.

While The First Amendment can often be viewed as broad, that’s essentially not the case when it comes to private companies.

“The First Amendment, is it prevents government from restricting people’s speech. It does not prevent private individuals or private companies from restricting people’s speech,” UNL Political Science Professor, Dr. John Gruhl, said.

It comes down to the terms of use everyone agrees to when they sign up for these platforms.

“Those terms of service provide, essentially no protection to the user from being blocked or suspended,” UNL Associate Professor of Law, Kyle Langvardt, said.

Due to the fact businesses like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Parler are privately owned companies, they have the right to monitor or even silence what they view as harmful or a threat.

“Part of the reason that we’ve been able to have rules that are that protective of the freedom of speech, is that speech has just traditionally moved more slowly. We haven’t had this viral dynamic where it’s so easy for speech to lead to real world consequences,” Langvardt said.

Landgvardt said with the increasing use of social media and the consequences that come with it, he wouldn’t be surprised if soon, the government did step in to help regulate the rules of these platforms. However, even in that sense, it could be a tricky situation on how much control the government would have.

When it comes down to it, both Dr. Gruhl and Langvardt said when it comes to not agreeing with the terms of service on a platform, there isn’t much a user can do legally other than leave the site.

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