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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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In+his+latest+piece%2C+opinion+columnist+Zach+Freeman+argues+that+Gov.+Greg+Abbotts+string+of+recent+actions+make+him+unfit+for+office.%26%23160%3B
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In his latest piece, opinion columnist Zach Freeman argues that Gov. Greg Abbott’s string of recent actions make him unfit for office. 

Set in motion by former President Donald Trump, potential reforms — or even a complete repeal — of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, could generate outrage on each end of the political spectrum. 

Section 230 currently allows social media companies to regulate the material published on social networking platforms. With the highly publicized possibility of changes to Section 230, many ask what exactly this law is and why it affects them.

Though both ends of the political spectrum want a change to the section, the reasons and means are drastically different. Many Republicans believe Section 230 should be repealed as it is viewed as an attack on an individual’s freedom of speech and an attempt to silence Republicans. Democrats, however, want to reform the law to hold ‘Big Tech’ companies — such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter — responsible. 

Political science junior Gloria Alvarez said she believes factually incorrect or hateful social media posts should be tagged, as opposed to being banned from the platform. 

“Wrong or false information is dangerous because many people use social media as their primary news source,” Alvarez said. “Companies should be held accountable for the clearly incorrect and immoral statements made by ignorant [users].”

Alvarez said public officials should have their posts tagged as incorrect, rather than removed. However, Alvarez said posts which harass or abuse minors should unequivocally be removed from social media outlets.

Political science professor Dwight Roblyer said as a nation, the United States government has made decisions for the public good for centuries. With seat belt mandates and street laws such as stopping at red lights, the government often implements laws that hinder personal freedom. Sometimes, the government decides to protect individual freedom within the context of social order. For instance, Roblyer said it remains legal to burn the U.S. flag as an act of protest.

“To quote a Duke academic, ‘Freedom of expression is one thing, freedom of reach is another,’” Roblyer said. Freedom of speech is not the trump card people think it is.”

Roblyer said individuals cannot use their freedom of speech to share national security secrets to another country or yell, “Fire!” in a crowded environment when there is no danger. First Amendment rights are tempered by a list of things in favor of social order, and Roblyer said he recommends ‘zooming out’ and looking at the picture from every angle.

Communication senior Marlowe Overocker said confirmation bias and groupthink are exacerbated by social media algorithms. Overocker said she believes social media feeds project  what an individual is interested in or what beliefs they hold and return more posts that reaffirm those. 

“People see posts that are targeted to beliefs they already have,” Overocker said.

Overocker said this leads to individuals being unable to gain perspective on other viewpoints and instead only having their own opinions confirmed repeatedly. Similarly, ‘cancel culture’ makes it difficult for individuals to learn from their mistakes or restrain from insensitive posts in the future. Social media then virtually erases the ‘canceled’ person from feeds and timelines.

Cancel culture leads to people unfriending those they do not agree with,” Overocker said. “No one gets to open their mind.”

Overocker said her A&M communication classes often hold discussions regarding the ethics at play in laws that divide the nation. In a relatively unbiased environment, students have the chance to express their views and consider those who do not agree with them. 

Overocker said it is acceptable to permanently suspend accounts on Twitter as long as users are allowed to contest it. She said she supports regulation of social media; however, she said she believes platforms must report what is being banned and allow offenders the opportunity to appeal their cases. Her goal is to ensure Republicans and other political groups do not feel silenced.

In Roblyer’s words, First Amendment rights are tempered by a list of things in favor of societal good.

“It’s a tradeoff between freedom and order,” Roblyer said.

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