Can Social Media Balance Free Speech With Accountability?

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From dawn until dusk, many of us sneak moments here and there checking our socials. Refreshing our feeds on social media platforms may be the first thing we do in the morning and the last thing we do at night. And it all adds up: On average, according to data from Statista, most people in the United States spend over two hours a day scrolling, liking and perusing. Those two (or more) hours open all of us up to a lot of fun content, sure, but they also expose us to out-of-control amounts of viral headlines, "fake news" and other questionable content that can be surprisingly — and dangerously — influential.

The growing prevalence of fake news on various social media platforms is no secret — nearly a quarter of people in the United States rarely trust the news and other information they read on social media, another Statista survey reveals. But what about the other three-quarters who may put themselves and others at risk by trusting everything they read? This proliferation of harmful fake news is raising the question of how social media platforms can tackle the balance between free speech and false information — and whether those platforms are obligated to do so at all.

The nation is more divided than ever, and it’s largely up to the media to find a way to regulate disinformation. But does doing so run contrary to our free speech rights? To better assess this dilemma, it’s essential to look at how fake news really spreads and affects people, along with whether governments and platforms should mitigate the escalation.

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