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September 20, 2012

Should the Free Speech Amendment Apply to Inappropriate Comments on Social Media Sites?

By Jamie Epstein, TMCnet Web Editor

Freedom of speech in the United States is powered by the First Amendment in the United States Constitution. As social media usage continues to increase, what should the next course of action be when someone openly voices either a distasteful or completely racist ideology? Should they be arrested, sued for monetary funds, or just left alone to look ignorant?

That is a huge issue currently taking place in cyber space, a place where many immediately go without thinking twice to voice their frustrations and/or beliefs about a certain problem or even a specific group of people. While you can just delete someone as your friend on such platforms as Facebook (News - Alert) if you don’t agree with them, should additional steps be taken to show these users what is ok to air to the world and what should remain under wraps?

It depends on who you talk to, but the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer recently revealed, “Internet users who make offensive comments on social networks should not be prosecuted unless there has been a clear breach of the law,” TechWorld reports.

In fact, Keir’s organization has went as far as to create rules that should be closely analyzed in situations where people are in effect jailed for typing up angry remarks on either Twitter (News - Alert) and Facebook that were perceived to be threats.

And only last month that was exactly what happened when Daniel Thomas was arrested for allegedly making homophobic comments on Twitter about British Olympic divers Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield.

 “This was, in essence, a one-off offensive Twitter message, intended for family and friends, which made its way into the public domain,” Starmer commented. “It was not part of a campaign, it was not intended to incite others and Thomas removed it reasonably swiftly and has expressed remorse.”

Even though the Communications Act of 2003 was made to persecute those who make “grossly offensive” comments, the rule only encompasses threats because freedom of expression allows U.S. citizens to express opinions that offend, shock or even disturb.

He added, “The fact that offensive remarks may not warrant a full criminal prosecution does not necessarily mean that no action should be taken.”

What is your opinion on this hot topic—live and let live or censor thoughts, feelings and emotions-- something that is simply not what it was once thought of in terms of the definition of an American?

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
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