Friday, July 10, 2020

Column: Obscene opinions aren't the problem, censorship is

April 17, 2019

How much can a person say before their words considered harmful or objectionable enough to be censored?

You might be wondering what exactly censorship is or what it entails or even why it’s worth discussing. I'm glad you asked. In simple terms, censorship is the management and authority over ideas and information circulated in society. While there are different types of censorship, some of which includes withholding and destroying information, I’m going to focus on media censorship, or the suppression of public communication.

While we see news censorship mostly at a larger level with government agencies and corporations removing comments or media they don't believe align with their own ideals, there also seems to be an issue with those present in media receiving backlash after offering their opinion, whether it be through a broadcast medium or a piece of writing. There is hypocrisy when it comes to what is censored and what is not censored. If the President of the United States says something obscene, nothing happens, but when anyone else decides to make a political statement, outrage occurs.

For example, American-Canadian comedian Samantha Bee, host of "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee", lost national advertisement in 2018 after she made an ‘inappropriate’ comment about Ivanka Trump. Similarly, Tucker Carlson's show on Fox News lost advertisers after he made comments about immigration in 2018.

At a smaller level, media organizations and independent sources can delete messages in their comment sections. Creators and publishers have the ability to get rid of messages on outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube, only having to do as much as click a few buttons.

Whether a person likes what another has to say or not, everyone is entitled to their opinion. As long as no threat is being made and no one is being harmed by a comment, then it should not be able to be taken down by a secondary source who isn’t the original commentator.

If we start regularly deleting comments and censoring media influencers from sharing their opinions, then we begin to lose our basic first amendment rights. Freedom of speech is in place to protect us from prosecution for our opinions. It can become a problem when untrue things are being said and spread around online, but how can a person’s reputation be harmed by a fifty-year-old man's comment posted under a Rolling Stone article on Facebook?

When libel or slander happens, then censorship should be implemented, but until that point, people should be allowed to post whatever they want to without repercussions. If no one’s reputation is being destroyed, then what’s the point of deconstructing arguments? Everyone has a voice. The whole point of articles and columns is to share news or an opinion.

Is there a better way to get feedback rather than letting the comment section on a post be a free space to respond? I don’t think so. I think censorship takes credibility away from the media. It makes it seem as though the outlet is a vulnerable entity and can’t handle a few criticisms or negative opinions.

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