Censorship in American Politics – The Paisano
The political landscape of the United States is as unstable as it is divided. Social media platforms like Twitter have become a war zone, where users must tread carefully or they could fall victim to the rampant misinformation that inhabits social media. But is misinformation really as harmful as some say? And does suspending and/or banning users from streaming it do anything to reduce the damage? I believe that disinformation has its place in politics and society as a whole, and that suspending politicians who spread disinformation only further radicalizes their followers.
The suspension of politicians who are actively in office on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube has only lasted about two years. Meanwhile, seven politicians have been suspended, all Republicans. It’s easy to believe that all of Twitter’s suspensions and bans have been on Republican accounts, since all of these Twitter censorship misinformation cases were about January 6, 2021 or COVID-19. While to some this seems entirely justified, there are also Twitter users who feel like their reps are being targeted by Twitter. When one group is unequally affected by efforts to minimize the spread of disinformation, it creates a not-so-united United States of America; where one side feels it is being silenced and the other feels that its views are the only valid political position.
Censorship has done more to divide the United States than misinformation. Regardless of the political position, censorship should never take place. It’s not because of a violation of the First Amendment, as some would have you believe. Instead, I think censorship should never be an option because it does two things that damage the political landscape we share as American citizens. First, it can lead to a phenomenon known as backfire effect, which showed that correcting misinformation could actually increase belief in the very misconception that was corrected. Second, censoring disinformation spread by political figures removes the possibility of healthy political discourse, which should be at the heart of any successful democracy. Without the presence of misinformation on Twitter, users are presented with a limited scope of the political landscape that will undoubtedly influence the decisions made by the potential voter.
Debunking misinformation has become something individuals need to do when deciding who to vote for. Politicians using social media to spread misinformation should be a clear indication of that politician’s values, so why is censoring them the reaction of social media platforms? Voters need to take more responsibility for properly educating themselves, rather than blaming platforms like Twitter and Facebook for failing to adequately moderate political information. If voters took the time to do quality research on current events and the officials they might vote for, the level of voter education in the voting booth would undoubtedly be higher than the current situation in America.
In summary, misinformation should be present online because it presents potential voters with an accurate view of the person they are voting for. Censoring those responsible for misinformation does more harm than good, as the risk of a backfire effect is more dangerous to the political landscape than silencing a politician making false claims on topics like COVID-19. Censorship should never be a reaction to misinformation, and Twitter’s actions against Republican officials have created a divide between the two major parties in the United States, a divide that must be repaired before the political landscape can change from from a war zone to an intellectual utopia of democratic debate.