Arizona Republicans introduced a bill to the Arizona Legislature that could allow the spread of political misinformation on social media.
The bill, known as House Bill 2280, provides that an owner or operator of a social media website may not intentionally delete or censor the social media users’ religious or political speech or use an algorithm to censor the users’ speech.
Supporters of the bill may see this as a way to release information that they support, regardless of whether it is fact-checked or proven to be true.
This bill sparks discussion about misinformation on social media and how users will respond to it. Some Scottsdale residents said they are worried about how this bill may have an impact on people who get their news solely or primarily from social media.
“With how quickly information can go viral, dangerous misinformation can spread very quickly, particularly to people that use social media as their only source of ‘news.’ Once the genie is out of the bottle it is very difficult to convince people they were duped,” Carolyn Robertson, a Scottsdale resident, said.
Twitter and other social media platforms have imposed policies against posting misinformation on their websites.
Twitter said on its website that users may not post media that is manipulated or out-of-context which could lead to readers’ confusion.
“You may not share synthetic, manipulated, or out-of-context media that may deceive or confuse people and lead to harm (“misleading media”). In addition, we may label Tweets containing misleading media to help people understand their authenticity and to provide additional context,” Twitter’s guidelines state.
Private social media companies are able to make their own policies that users agree to when they sign up. This is called the “terms and conditions” and could be overlooked by users.
Some Scottsdale residents say that they are concerned about the government’s involvement in what private companies can censor or delete.
“I don’t like it. I wish it wasn’t necessary,” Robertson said. “In these cases I consider our government’s monitoring of disinformation to be akin to national defense. When society as a whole is negatively affected by disinformation on social media, the companies need to have some accountability.”
A social media company that violates this bill can face up to “$75,000 a day, actual damages, punitive damages (if aggravating factors are present) and other forms of equitable relief,” according to the bill.
This could be damaging to social media companies’ existence due to the repercussions.
“I feel like whether social media tries to take [a post] down, whether or not they do and get fined, it’s not the biggest impact,” Dmitri Bell, a student at Scottsdale Community College, said.
Due to the accessibility of news on social media, information is at the fingertips of anyone who chooses to sign up.
“I feel like we’re just in a weird time historically because people use to just get their information from libraries. Public information is a right, and people would go to libraries and they would put themselves into that and learn it. Now we have phones. It feels like the government is dictating what books can and can’t be in the library, which they did,” Bell said.
Editor's Note: Cassidy Connelly is a student reporter at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
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