Should We Ban Facebook?

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By Spencer Thompson, Assistant Reporter

Should we ban Facebook?  

In the Solomon Islands, Facebook has been temporarily banned in the name of “National Unity.” While the Solomon Islands’ decision is more likely about silencing criticism of the government and strengthening its relationship with China, rather than promoting national unity, it does bring up some important questions that have been floated around as more and more people become disenchanted with large tech companies: can the government limit social media, and is it in the government’s best interest to do so? But before one can respond to those concerns, one must first be concerned with the something else: do the benefits Facebook brings through its continuation outweigh the costs that accompany the social media platform? Furthermore, what are the costs associated with banning Facebook? These inquiries most also consider other aspects, such as the limits of free speech, national security, and polarization. In an effort to navigate the murky waters of banning Facebook, I have come up with three reasons as to why we should not ban Facebook, and three reasons as to why we should.  

 

Why We Should Not  

 
  

      1.) It infringes on freedom of speech and sets a bad precedent 
 

The most obvious concern with banning a large social media platform is that it threatens the 1st amendment. Facebook is a private company, and because of the precedent set by Citizens United v. FEC, Facebook is granted 1st amendment rights as an association of citizens. While it is highly controversial on whether corporations are actually people, the fact remains that Facebook has these rights, and if they were to be stripped from Facebook, it would create a legal precedent that would weaken an average citizen’s freedom of speech. Basically, if there is no legal difference between Facebook and a person, and the government can ban Facebook in the name of national security or a similar reason, then what is to stop it from impeding a person’s right to free speech for the same reason? One could also say that Facebook is essentially a collection of ideas, and banning these ideas, based on their content, not only brings up the question of who has the social authority to decide what is “questionable content,” but also whether it weakens the fundamental ideas behind free speech.  Thus, to ban Facebook is to take the first steps toward a censorship that goes against who we are as Americans.

     2.) Facebook is a useful tool 

You may have once heard the internet is user sensitive, meaning that it is neither good nor evil; the internet is merely a device that carries out the user’s actions. The actions themselves can be good or evil, but the internet is just a tool. The same can be said for Facebook. Facebook allows you to reconnect with old friends, and to stay in contact with family members over long distances. Activist groups in countries around the world have used Facebook as a platform for political change, their actions ranging from advocating for more rights to fighting oppression. This shows that Facebook can be a force for good, not just bad and we should not eliminate the positive ramifications of Facebook simply because it has negative side effects. 

      

      3.) Something will just replace it 

The technology industry has been defined by its flexibility and rate of change. As shown by history, technology brings speed and change – just look at the effects of railroads, the telephone, the domestication of the horse, or even paper. Think how quickly people move from app to app on their phone. If Facebook went under, another site would be up and running within weeks, if not days, to fill that hole, whether that be Twitter, Instagram, or any of the other hundreds of social medial platforms. However, one thing is clear: Facebook isn’t going away. Facebook has created a demand for virtual social interaction in the market, and Facebook’s absence would leave a hole waiting to be filled. Unless the world considers banning the internet altogether, or at least severely regulating it, there is not much one could do to eliminate Facebook and what it represents, so trying to eliminate the platform is simply a waste of time.  

 
 

Why We Should  

 
                                                                                                                                             

 

      1.) It increases political polarization 

It is a fact that the world has become more divided and polarized in the past twenty years. Why? Facebook and other social media platforms. Facebook is a center of misinformation, and it has eliminated the need for users to hear dissenting opinions. It struck at democratic values of moderation and debate, and replaced them with extremism and shouting matches. The division between people in the United States is on full display for the world to see on Facebook. Similarly, it illustrates just how far we have fallen, and the challenges social media has infected the nation with are immense. To start the healing process, one must first deal with the source of the illness. The Solomon Islands had the right idea: Facebook needs to be banned for the sake of national unity.

      2.) It is a threat to national security 
 

Facebook is very financially involved with foreign entities. According to the New York Times, the social media site has ties with Chinese firms and equipment makers, so it is in their interest to favor the Chinese. Furthermore, foreign entities have also successfully used the social media platform to carry out their own agenda. The New York Times reports of Russian misinformation campaigns being found on the site, and CNN spotlights the threat of how Ukrainian entities are acquiring personal data on Facebook users. The dangers of possibly hostile foreign powers having direct access to American data is concerning. With Facebook having such far-reaching influence on the US electorate, its ties with foreign nations risk the soul of the United States. It is clear, Facebook’s continued existence means our country may no longer be our own.

 
      3.) It provides a mouthpiece for misinformation 

When you hear the word “Facebook,” there is a good chance you associate the word with fake news. This goes to show the extent to which Facebook has become filled with falsehood. Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world, with more than two billion users. Boasting such a large user base, the effects of misinformation on the site are magnified one thousandfold – one can influence how millions view the world in as little as few hours with a single lie. Facebook essentially acts as a megaphone for falsehood; it projects and exponentially increases the issue of misinformation. Any organization that allows for such disregard for the truth is detrimental to society and should not exist. Facebook needs to be banned.

Conclusion 

The harrowing events on January 6th, and the ties social media had to this infamous attack on the Capital, shine a light on, now more than ever, the crossroads the country stands at. We must look inward to find solutions to the questions brought up here. We must discover how we as a country must deal with the platform that spreads misinformation and extremism, but we also need to ensure that we do not possibly eliminate the platform that gives a voice to valiant and just causes, while simultaneously bringing joy to millions of people.

References

Laforgia, M., & X, G. J. (2018, June 05). Facebook Gave Data Access to Chinese Firm Flagged by U.S. Intelligence. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/05/technology/facebook-device-partnerships-china.html

O’Sullivan, D. (2019, March 09). Ukrainian hackers used quizzes to access private Facebook data, company says. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/09/tech/facebook-ukraine-hackers/index.html

Satariano, A. (2019, January 17). Facebook Identifies Russia-Linked Misinformation Campaign. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/17/business/facebook-misinformation-russia.html