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What does the First Amendment have to do with your ability to post anything you want on yours and others’ social media feeds? Nothing at all actually. “The language is clear: Congress shall pass no law abridging free speech,” says John Connell, an attorney with Archer Law who has litigated high profile First Amendment lawsuits. “The subject of the first amendment is the government. People love to raise a red flag that their constitutional rights are being violated, but what we all have to understand is we live under a system of government with limited powers.”

“If private actors want to somehow abridge free speech, they’re free to do so.”

Because social media is run by private companies, he points out, you’re playing by their rules. “If private actors want to somehow abridge free speech, they’re free to do so,” Connell says.

“Put this in the context of the marketplace of ideas, which the First Amendment is supposed to promote,” he adds. “Some ideas are less palatable, less attractive and less acceptable than other ideas, so private actors who provide a platform for the expression of those ideas can restrain them if they wish to do so. And that’s true, by the way, whether you’re talking about CNN, Fox, Newsmax or Parler. They can do as they wish because they’re not engaged in state action.”

February 2021
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