Honors Theses

Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

Journalism

First Advisor

Cynthia Joyce

Relational Format

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

This thesis explores the developing legal environment surrounding speech liability, and the extent of free speech that goes with it, on social media platforms. As this new media has grown exponentially in the last decade, the legal questions facing the platforms have also expanded in range, from privacy to security to speech. By looking at the guiding statute, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, as well as the case law involving online intermediary liability, this project uncovers where the law currently stands and what critics point to as its greatest flaws. The current protection given to social media under Section 230 shapes daily interactions online. This thesis addresses what specific areas of the digital world could be impacted by changing Section 230, including the content moderation process and free speech online, as well as how it shapes public discussion and flow of information. As the issue evolves every day, the findings of this thesis are in no way concrete. Rather, the conclusion looks at a variety of ways that different parties view this area of law, and how they would like to see it develop. Politicians are calling for change to Section 230; free speech advocacy groups calling for it to remain the same; scholars suggesting new theories that challenge and shift the traditional way of viewing the dynamics of free speech online. While there is no definite answer in 2019, the development of this law has the potential to change the way users on social media interact every day.

Included in

Communication Commons

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