Free Speech in Our Current Society

Social media is probably the largest area in which free speech comes into question. There are so many different platforms with their own sets of regulations, and there are millions of people posting millions of things each day. This raises a lot of questions and conflicts when it comes to free speech, especially when it comes down to it being limited.

Social media is meant to be a “public sphere“, a place where anyone can express their thoughts and opinions and have every right to. Social media is often referred to as an extension of print and broadcast media, which has given a bit of background into regulation and how to navigate it. However, I feel as though it’s too different because of how many more people have access to social media. Due to this many users on a daily basis, this has caused some social media platforms to enforce regulations in order to hinder some speech. While I personally don’t disagree with many of these regulations, at the end of the day, they are still limitations on free speech. The main example that comes to mind is Twitter, which is one of the largest platforms for people to post and interact. Twitter, as many know, have specific guidelines and rules. They also had cracked down much more on flagging tweets that were deemed misinformation or harmful such as Covid or politics related posts. While these are all in place in order to protect from people being mislead and to prevent further online conflict, censorship like this can have the opposite effect on users and create bigger issues. As of just a couple of days ago though, Elon Musk purchased the platform for about $44 billion with promises to allow complete free speech, which has caused its own set of disagreements. The other side of this brings Facebook to mind, which is known for having many conspiracies and false information throughout the platform. There is a large group of people who feel things like this should not be allowed online, as it steers people in the wrong direction and can be harmful to those who are truly unaware. However, there is the argument that people are free to post what they please and it is up to the consumer to make their own educated decisions which unfortunately, is hard to argue with.

Government and policy makers are put into a tough position when it comes to the line between social media and real life speech. It’s much easier to identify and justify real life situations that are harmful without violating first amendment rights because online, they are now dealing with the platforms themselves and their rules when it comes to harmful speech. Entering the digital world would call for a whole new set of arguments and eventual laws which could defeat the sole purpose of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook in being a place where you can fully express your thoughts and opinions. However, it could be the solution in a situation where there is very distasteful speech that no one wants to see. Just because something is legal, it doesn’t make it harmless. Allowing entirely free speech could cause for some very awful things online that could not only create real life conflict but end up hurting these platforms directly by losing advertisers and users all around because of the lack of regulation. I think a middle ground amongst law makers and these social media giants is a very possible solution where there is a clear line that can be crossed where speech becomes too distasteful for others and is censored or even removed. What would likely prevent something like this from ever occurring would be that every platform from Reddit, to Facebook, to Twitter, etc. would have to be bound to the same exact rules created by the government. This could end up resulting in no disparity amongst platforms and eventually file down into a place where there is one huge platform people all go to which would likely never work. This could cause users to feel more limited than ever as it would very likely give off the feeling that they are using one large government regulated and monitored platform and the first amendment is meaningless. Not to mention, there is nowhere near a consensus as to what is deemed “harmful”. One solution mentioned by techdirt that I could see being a great starting point, would be to give more power to the users/consumers over what they see. While this doesn’t offer much help at all for lawmakers or the government in terms of finding a solution, allowing the users an easy and clear way to filter what they see could create a clearer understanding as to what people find to be harmful. There would be data on what is blocked the most and what isn’t, and also show the specific groups of users that are posting and enjoying the content deemed harmful by most, which may be pretty useful information itself.

While this topic is one that may never have a final or true solution, it’s important to attempt as many steps as possible. Our society moves so rapidly and social media changes by the day, so the argument over free speech will probably look different in the years to come. However, we will never come close to the answer without trying and I feel as though things will start to calm down over time. With the political clashes we’ve had the last few years and Covid taking over the world, people become very defensive and on-edge about many things and I’m hopeful that we will all be in a better place in the near future to where these types of topics can become much more civil and easier debates.


Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age

The internet has changed the concept of freedom of expression by allowing for it on a much grander scale. The internet is of course, a place where someone from where I am here in Arizona can communicate with someone on the opposite side of the world in a different continent within seconds. Since the capabilities are this large, freedom of expression almost seems unlimited and impossible to control. Despite the fact that this is an amazing accomplishment, it seems in our current time this has caused more harm than good. People on the internet often seem to speak as though consequences do not exist on there and feel as though they can get away with whatever they say. In a world where it seems everyone was against bullying and cyberbullying, cyberbullying almost seems to be the hot new trend on Twitter. You can’t go onto any prominent figures’ Twitter page without seeing the comments flooded with insults and new slang such as “ratio” or “make better ___”. This article by Huffpost was published back in 2012 on topic of Twitter cyberbullies, showing that there were over 15,000 tweets every day that were categorized as cyberbullying. With the platforms growth since then, one can only imagine what these numbers look like in 2022. Back in 2012, Twitter had just under 200 million users. Today, Twitter has surpassed 400 million users.

I feel as though there definitely should be a ranking in values and rights online because certain things are just more important than others. The one I feel should be first above all is simply the freedom of expression. This is the main idea being discussed and it I feel as though it is the most important value to protect against the others. While there should always be guidelines and terms to follow on every website and platform, our first amendment right is the most important value to uphold and protect. Second, I would say should be our privacy. Just because we have the freedom to say almost whatever we think and feel, that does not mean you should be forced to be public to the online world. For example, my mom is brand new to social media and she does not want to ever be found by relatives or co-workers, so she has a very anonymous Twitter account with no picture and a randomly generated username. The right to protect our online presence is a close second to our overall freedom of speech. The next two I feel go hand in hand because without access to one’s speech, there can’t be any impact on one’s speech. However, if I had to pick one as being more important, I would say the impact is much more important. The internet can be a very unfriendly place and the things people say to each other on a daily basis is shocking. I feel like this carries more weight than the overall ability to see one’s thoughts and opinions because those who wish to remain private, can.

Overall, the internet has added an entirely new and complicated element to our freedom of speech and expression. There are millions of users saying tens of millions of things a day, making it seemingly impossible to monitor or to have any sort of limitations. Unfortunately, this has led to a lot more negativity and hate online, despite the potential for a very civil and open place for communication. However, times are always changing as is technology and we may see this trend or theme change at any moment adding an entirely new wrinkle to our first amendment rights.


The Narrowing of Our First Amendment Rights

The rise of the state-level legislation around the United States is definitely a cause for concern. Our first amendment right is something that has separated this country from many others and any form of that being limited is something that should not be overlooked.

As more and more legislation is created to limit this right, it allows lawmakers to push their limits further and further each and every time. One huge topic that seems to be the driving force behind the creation of these new laws is protesting. As we learned from, 110 state bills were introduced between 2017 and 2019 that allowed for harsher penalties and sentences for protesters. The worst part about this all, was that this was greatly a result of the former President and his views and beliefs. It all felt very selective and targeted based on what his feelings were towards certain protest movements, and it almost empowered lawmakers that aligned with these beliefs to take things as far as they could. An amazing line from an article by The Atlantic stated, “The First Amendment is no good if it is used to protect one side of the political spectrum but disregarded for the other.” People like Donald Trump were calling George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protesters “thugs” but praised those who stormed the United States Capitol “good people”, and it was this sort of hypocrisy that was creating a lot of tension and divide in the country. There is absolutely a limit when it comes to freedom of expression or perhaps petitioning the government depending on how these situations were viewed. Yes, businesses and properties should not have been damaged, looted, and destroyed. But at the same time, and really a much more important scale, the United States Capitol building should not have been broken into, damaged, and destroyed. It was shocking and disappointing to see the differences in treatment for the two sides of the spectrum. Even the peaceful demonstrations in support for people like George Floyd or Breonna Taylor were met with much more force, aggression, and hostility from police than the people who were scaling the sides of the Capitol building and intimidating those who were there to protect it.

I feel conflicted in answering the second question of whether or not policy is the appropriate way of regulating free speech. I really feel like it should not be because of what I discussed in the first portion of this blog. However, the other side of me asks where the regulation would come from then if not through policy and lawmakers. I feel as though there has to be some other way to go about this issue because as we’ve all witnessed and experienced, things can be very biased and unfair when it comes to new legislation depending on those in charge. The best solution in my eyes is to create a more defined line as to what is determined free speech, expression, and petition, and what is too far. Perhaps this would prevent the ongoing number of bills being introduced as a result of protesters and demonstrations because there’d be a clearer answer as to what is acceptable and what isn’t.


The Layers Behind Free Speech

I personally believe that the First Amendment should shield journalists and reporters no different than all of us. Despite wanting to of course go into the reporting field, I don’t see many reasons why journalists should have extra freedoms when it comes to speech. I feel as though journalists are already able to push their limits sometimes when it comes to the questions they ask or their proximity to places and situations that normal civilians are not allowed to be in. However, extra freedoms and protection can lead to too much power and comfortability where reporters can cross lines with topics or people of prominence and not face the same consequences as someone like I would face. While of course there will always be great journalists who are accurate and unbiased, there is bound to be times where a story comes out too quick and is wrong, or someone is being slandered and it could lead to even bigger problems with the law and reporting. Plus, the First Amendment should already be a big enough shield for everyone because there is not a whole lot that is punishable besides direct threats at someone or in a situation that can cause panic.

I would argue that the weaponized defamation lawsuit against the media can be very concerning. However, there is likely many times in which it is necessary. I feel like this is a necessary right for people and especially those in the public eye, in order to have the opportunity and ability to defend their name. The only issue is that it is very difficult to win against the media in these situations. This is due to the protections that are granted in the media that include: The Substantial Truth Doctrine, Fair Report Privilege, Statute of Limitations Defense, Wire Service Defense, Opinion and Fair Comment Privilege, Newsworthiness Defense to Invasion of Privacy Claims, and finally Arrests and Criminal Charges. However, it is not impossible to do so as there have been multiple examples of people successfully suing the media for defamation. For one of course, the plaintiff has to be able to prove that what was said is false. This already can be difficult enough to do with things like The Substantial Truth Doctrine, which means if the truth does not change public opinion/reaction as much as the false statement does, it is said to be “substantially true”. The plaintiff would also want to try and prove that there was actual harm caused. For example, celebrities in Hollywood might be able to win a case in this situation if they can prove they were removed from a movie role due to false claims that were released.

Anti-SLAPP statutes most definitely help us out. Without these, it is very likely that we would have seen many more cases of journalists being arrested, fired, or sued by these figures. This is an easy conclusion to come up with especially after reading through many cases that involved Anti-SLAPP laws protecting people. All the way from journalist Nancy Chapman being sued after writing a story on Marc D’Amelio who was running for Senate in Connecticut, to a family being sued for $1 million for just leaving a negative Yelp review. Surprisingly, only 31 out of the 50 states have Anti-SLAPP laws with Colorado becoming the latest. But there are talks of a federal Anti-SLAPP law in the works which may be able to provide help to those in the 19 remaining states or perhaps just influence these states to finally create their own.

Overall, there are lots of complications and grey areas when it comes to The First Amendment and reporters/media. However, with the protections in place and the ones that are soon to be developed, hopefully there will be a more clear-cut set of regulations and understandings amongst what is and is not fully protected by The First Amendment.


The Value of Free Expression

The value that free expression holds in our society is a huge one. It’s really a part of our everyday lives in so many ways that I feel we don’t really realize. Whether it’s as simple as commenting on a YouTube video or publicly stating a disagreement with authority like the government, it is one of the most important rights we have. When we consider how unfortunate some people’s situations are in other countries like North Korea, we are extremely lucky to have this freedom. Especially when you think about how we are allowed to voice our own opinions whether they are positive or negative towards people like the president, the police, or other positions of power which is definitely more censored in other countries.

I feel like overall freedom of expression is more of a public issue just due to first amendment. There is some personal value to it because of course it is our right, and so we have our own thoughts and opinions protected under free speech. However, that wouldn’t be possible without it being a publicly known matter and law. Of course, this isn’t just free speech that is being granted there is also freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly/protest, and of course the right to petition the government. This all tells me that it’s a much more public value because a lot of these would contain or require groups of people.

Freedom of expression contributes to our identity because it’s a large part of what makes us, us. Without this we’d be a censored version of ourselves and there’d be a lack of uniqueness in our identities. I feel as though freedom of expression has also paved the way and allowed for a more progressive society. Although there is still more work to do, we wouldn’t be this far without this freedom. It contributes to our personal identities by allowing people to be themselves in their authentic, true form. It then contributes to our public identity because all of these individuals collide to make up our current society.

Freedom of expression is 100% worth protecting. I think without it, we’d quickly realize how important it is in our daily lives and realize how much protection it provides us. With how technologically driven our society is and with things like social media I feel like that’d be the quickest realization for everyone. Imagine if your posts, comments, likes, texts, calls, or even Google searches were all monitored and censored, or even reported. It would give us all such an unsettling feeling almost as if our thoughts were being controlled and manipulated in order to fall in line with what those above us want us to think. It’s a scary thought considering that there are still places in the world who do not have this freedom and it’s something we really never think about in terms of how fortunate we truly are.


Debunking Misinformation

The popular online myth I’d like to debunk for this final blog post is one about vaccines. I’d like to make it as clear as possible that the Covid 19 vaccine does not contain microchips that track us, listen to us, or contain 5G radiation. They are just vaccines to help protect against the virus.

First and foremost, the various Covid vaccines were worked on and created by some of the most advanced companies and scientists all across the world. Ranging from Moderna, to BioNTech-Pfizer, Sputnik V, and of course Johnson & Johnson. It amazes me that people would believe in a conspiracy so large that it would entail some of the best companies across the world working together to inject the entire world with microchips, but here we are. What’s even worse about this theory is that it seems as though those who believe in it, feel as though it only involves us here in the United States. Why would they only do this to us? The logic is very flawed in this entire thing. In a poll created by, 28% of Americans believe in the theory, and amongst Republicans, that number is 44%. These numbers are shockingly high, and it appears the main culprits in question are Bill and Melinda Gates.

What sparked this whole controversy was Bill Gates talking about the potential for digital certificates that could show who has been tested, recovered from Covid, or is vaccinated. However, this got spun into, Bill Gates is creating microchips to put in the vaccine. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones stated that Gates admitted that the vaccine will result in 700,000 deaths worldwide, which was of course proven false. People like Alex Jones spreading harmful information like that is how theories like this blow up. Former politician Simon Parkes has recently been saying some outlandish things. Things such as his mother is an alien, he stopped scientists at the Large Hadron Collider from opening a portal that would have ended mankind, and that the illuminati are behind the microchips in the vaccines with many of them fleeing the planet after failing to open the portal due to Parkes’ heroics, leaving only 200 “evil beings” on Earth. For starters, Parkes’ claims are ridiculous, but this information also comes from which is a known site full of disinformation, misinformation, and false news so it’s not surprising that they would speak with Simon Parkes.

NBC had a great article on debunking this conspiracy with real reasoning from Dr. Matt Laurens. Laurens stated that the size required for this microchip is actually impossible for one. Second, these chips would have to have an associated power source that every single one is connected to, and lastly, this power source would have to be able to transmit a signal through at minimum one inch of muscle, fat, and skin. These simple facts alone easily show why it’s scientifically impossible to achieve this. Just as it took collaboration from the world’s best scientists in order to create formulas for these vaccines, it’d likely take the same if not more work to even think of a possibility where a small enough chip could be invented. Forget even having a central power source and getting a signal through a human body. Their own study they conducted back in July of 2021, showed that 5% of Americans thought this theory was “definitely true”. While 15% thought it was “probably true”. Another fact to disprove this theory is the actual injection of the vaccine. Covid 19 vaccines are injected at least an inch into dense muscle, if a chip were to be inserted this far into our body, not even a phone would be able to communicate with it.

Another layer to this theory besides tracking, is that the microchips contain 5G technology. The main place in which this theory took off was through a social media post from user Mario Fusco. The kick in all of this is that this is one of the few places that this image and theory can be found, besides of course r/guitarpedals. Many thought Fusco was joking as the image is literally of a guitar pedal circuit. It contains words such as treble, bass, and volume, which should have been a dead giveaway. However, it still led to thousands of people online running with this and trying to create a theory that this was the technology within the microchip.

The last aspect of this theory is that the Covid vaccine is “the mark of the beast”. Now this one is probably the most unbelievable for me, in terms of people actually truly feeling this way. I am not a religious person and do not judge anyone for their beliefs. However, this was pretty insane to me. The most extreme aspect of this conspiracy is that the vaccine is some sort of ritual, or sacrifice. Now it was difficult to find true sources on this topic and not religious blogs and sites. Whether or not these sites had truth behind them with bible evidence and other sources, it is hard to not see this as bias no matter their stance whether the vaccine does or does not have to do with “the beast”. However, USA today did acknowledge this theory and it was one of the few nationally reliable sources that did so. However, it was mostly about the different opinions amongst healthcare workers, religious leaders, and some background as to where this idea even came from.

While there are many different theories about Covid and masks and politics behind all of this, I felt like this specific topic was a clear one to choose and pick apart because of how blatantly wrong it is. It is scientific fact that it’s simply impossible to microchip the world’s population through Covid vaccines. Unfortunately, this pandemic has divided the world and our country rather than bringing us together in an effort to end it, and it’s odd to think about how much of an issue masks and this vaccine has become when there’s never been a second thought about other vaccines like the flu or chickenpox.


Will We Ever be Rid of Misinformation?

Misinformation is an online plague that I honestly feel we will never fully be able to get rid of. I do feel that the problem will definitely get better as people have more experiences with it and become more versed in doing our own research and spotting questionable information.

I feel as though misinformation succeeds because there really is a lack of media literacy in society. Whether than comes from older generations being less familiar with social media, people being too biased to their preconceived notions, or just the fact that those who post misinformation know how to make it appear real. Technology and our social media platforms are so advanced now that faking news and information is so easy to do. There are things like deepfakes where we can make it appear as though somebody said something they did not through video or audio clips. There are sites and/or blogs that are purely biased and only spew misinformation with a real domain, images, and other media to make it appear real, and the main reason it succeeds, there are enough people who believe and support it. In order to really put some sort of end or to slow down misinformation, people have to start doing their own research and really look in depth at the sources they’re reading information from, or it will only get worse.

This is the main reason why I feel like we will never be able to make misinformation disappear. There are just too many people out there who don’t think twice about what they see or hear and will believe whatever they see from who they follow on their timelines. Another reason it won’t go away is because there’s no reason for these “sources” to stop. As long as there is some group of people willing to click on their links and read their content, they will continue to make content. Plus, others will just follow suit seeing the success in certain or styles video of misinformation. I do 100% feel like we can slow down misinformation and get rid of alot of these outlets, but I just don’t see how it could ever fully go away because there will always be two sides to things. For example, politics and Covid are two things that have split opinions, but these are just two examples of endless topics that give the opportunity for misinformation to be produced. Overall, I feel like our goal should just be to educate as many people as we can on how to spot misinformation and to do our own research. Look into the sources that are posting things and trust your skepticism. There is so much out there, and we are all bound to fall for it once in a while, but the better we are at spotting and discrediting it, the less common it will be.


Trust Indicators

For this assignment, I’ve decided to evaluate, and Scottsdale Independent.


Journalist Info: All of the journalists seem to be well qualified as they are apart of the Arizona Republic or USA Today which are reputable sources.

Labels: AZcentral seems to have a clear purpose as they section their website by topic/category. There’s sports, politics, opinion, local, investigations, and a few more tabs to search for specific topics of news.

References: After looking through multiple stories, any sources used in the stories were clearly identified and linked with quick and direct access to them.

Local: AZcentral definitely makes use of local sources and news as they have an entire section just for local news. While they do report on nationwide news it seems really the main focus of their news is local Arizona based news.

Diverse Voices: This is where I feel as though AZcentral needs to improve. After skimming through the headlines of the local section, it seems a lot of the news was focused on politics in Arizona. Also, the two locations that were featured in headlines were Scottsdale and Chandler which tend to be higher income places in the state.

Actionable Feedback: There is no place for readers to participate and give direct feedback on the site which should definitely be featured. Even a simple comment section would be a big difference.

Methods: It seems the methods that the journalists used were all standard. Nothing seemed rushed or lacking from the stories featured there was just a lack of diversity.

Best Practices: AZcentral does appear to care about these trust factors as they have a separate page dedicated to their values and principles. It does also mention diversity and the promise to represent diverse communities so there is a chance that the more recent local news just happened to not feature as much diversity as usual.


AZcentral seems to be a very solid source for your local news if needed. I don’t think they would be most people’s first choice and they definitely do not compete with the major news outlets like AZfamily, 12news, or FOX10. However, they do provide a wide range of news and seem to be partnered or connected to USA Today for more nationwide larger news. They have a large list of tabs to search for news, they provide a ton of stories on their homepage with images, they show the weather, an Olympic medal count, and other nice features. However, I think the overall appearance of the site is bland. While the appearance has nothing to do with substance, the lack of appeal could very well turn readers away. Immediately I was not super engaged in looking through the site when I first clicked on it and had to really start going through all of the tabs and sidebars in order to really get an understanding of the site. They do at least hit a lot of the boxes for the trust indicators. Their journalists all appear to be very well qualified and under the same employment which should mean that there is equality in the standards they look for and the work it took to be in the position these journalists are in. They do appear to have a clear purpose in providing local news to Arizona residents obviously, but they also seem to be very politics driven. I did not see much of a bias which was refreshing, but every other featured story had to do with the government or a senator or something of that nature. While this information is important, a lack of variety again will turn some readers away as some people including myself would like a bit or a break or escape from politics because it’s all we see on television and it’s a lot of what we see on social media. An area that definitely needs to be added in is a place for readers to participate. There were no comment sections featured at the end of stories and nowhere for direct engagement from locals. The other negative I would have for the site despite hitting on a lot of the trust indicators was more diversity. While all the indicators are important, I feel like diversity is too big of an indicator to not have clearly presented as need news outlets like AZcentral to represent them. Diversity is mentioned in their statement about values and principles, so I think they could get the benefit of the doubt as I’m not a regular reader of AZcentral.

Scottsdale Independent:

Journalist Info: There is a good amount of information for the journalists as there is a tab titled “Our Journalists” at the bottom of the site. What I didn’t like was that each author had a link/underline on their name but when you click on it you are not redirected anywhere.

Labels: This sites labels are pretty interesting because they have most of Arizona’s major cities all listed at the top so you can see specific stories for your community and where you live. They also do have similar tabs to AZcentral in listing news, business, education, things to do, opinions, and neighbors which was an interesting one.

References: For as many stories as I was able to view (many required a subscription), it seemed as though the sources were all clearly provided and easy to access.

Local: They definitely utilize and showcase local news and stories as previously mentioned with the various tabs of cities across the valley.

Diverse Voices: Scottsdale Independent immediately caught my eye on diversity as this was one of their top featured stories which was great to see.

Actionable Feedback: On all of their stories they have a comment section for those with an account which is already a step up to AZcentral. They also give readers the chance to submit letters through the opinions tab which is direct participation, plus the tab called “Valley voices” which are letters that have been posted to the site.

Methods: All of the methods used be the journalists seem to be in best practice as no story seemed to be biased or unethical even in the opinions section.

Best Practices: Scottsdale Independent also had their own about page which featured all of their policies and promises to practice these methods.


Scottsdale Independent was definitely the better site of the two in my opinion. For starters, it was a more direct and grander looking site. You see the name Scottsdale Independent in very large letters with their header of the communities they represent. Ranging from Mesa, Sun City, Paradise Valley, Tempe, to my former community in Glendale, to my current in Goodyear/Litchfield Park. I think this site had a much more personal feel to Arizona and it really seemed like their mission was to represent each and every community to the best of their abilities. The other thing I immediately noticed and that stood out from AZcentral was the diversity they featured. The fourth story featured on their homepage showcased Jackie Johnson who was hired as Scottsdale’s diversity program director.,286432

There really wasn’t much that I could knock about the site in the trust indicators. At first, I thought there was not as much information on the journalists as there should have been. However, after looking a little deeper they had an entire page dedicated to learning more about their writers and editors. One way to maybe improve upon this area would be to fix what appears to be the links provided on the authors’ names. When you click on a story the author has a link attached to their name; however, when you click on it, there is no redirection where it should take you to their about page. One area where Scottsdale Independent knocks AZcentral out is in the participation they give to the readers. Under every single article I was able to view there was a comment section for subscribers which is greatly important as local news should be receiving local feedback. Not only does this improve the quality of the stories themselves by taking in the readers’ feedback, but it also allows for those who are in these featured communities to talk amongst each other and understand how others feel. Perhaps they gain a new point of view or just agree with their neighbors. The best way they allow for participation is by allowing us readers to submit letters and stories directly to them. When you hover over the opinion tab there are two options: to submit something to them, or to view the “Valley Voices” which are stories from everyday people in “the valley”. This feature was so awesome to me as it adds to that personalized feel of their news/site, and it also may even provide opportunity for Arizona residents to be heard and recognized on important topics. Overall I thought the Scottsdale Independent is a news source deserving of more recognition.


Whose Responsibility is it?

In our current online climate, we’ve been plagued by misinformation and fake news. While most of this comes from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, other “sources” of information are beginning to do so including the very news that comes on every single night. So, whose responsibility is it to stop this?

While I feel like it ultimately comes down to us as users of social media platforms to do our own fact checking and research, our lives could be made a bit easier with some help from these sites. Twitter has done a pretty solid job in trying to warn its users about misinformation by flagging certain posts that have to do with controversial topics. They’ve also given us the opportunity to flag and report harmful posts which has definitely helped limit misinformation, and it makes sense that Twitter has put some of the responsibility into our hands as there are millions of tweets a day. Things like politics and Covid-19 are just a couple of examples that automatically get flagged by Twitter warning users that not everything said may be factual.

I feel like Twitter is a prime example of what social media platforms – specifically Facebook – should follow. While I feel the overall responsibility falls onto the social media site themselves for implementing policies and codes that can flag misinformation or mute/suspend/ban harmful users, that doesn’t mean we can’t try to limit this as well and make these platforms a better place.

However, we know that not all platforms are interested in this. Facebook has already been proven to manipulate the information on their site in order to gain more traffic. In fact, this has been an issue for many years now with the site and despite multiple claims that they are working to stop this, it’s clear that money is their main priority and clicks = $.

This is where I feel like an ever-higher power will need to step in such as the government. While I really don’t think this should be necessary at all because the power running these sites should the ones improving the issue, when they blatantly refuse to do so, then action should be taken. This has already been an issue discussed as a poll conducted in 2021 showed almost half of Americans want the government to do more to stop misinformation. However, some argue that there has already been enough restriction on speech online and in the world and allowing more would give the government too much power.

Overall, I’d feel like the ultimate goal would be to just do as much as we can to flag and report misinformation we see online. Despite some efforts being made by social media sites, it has to be difficult to keep up with millions of daily users, millions of posts, shares, retweets, etc. because with this many users we will likely never see the end of misinformation. However, we can definitely make an impact on how common it is, and the sooner we are able to identify and remove it, the more discouraging it would be to create and post. One can hope this would ultimately result in some sort of end to the problem.


Claim Analysis

To begin, any source of media/information that has to do with the topic of Covid-19 is worth double checking. So much misinformation and conspiracy theories have surrounded this topic so before believing anything, further research has to be done.

I’d first start by searching something along the lines of “difference in masks for Covid”. I then started by looking through an extremely trustworthy source being the FDA and their article on what different masks provide in terms of protection.

However, it’s always good to look through multiple sources regardless of the strength of a source like the FDA. This next article is from New York Magazine again about the different strengths of various masks. When you can find that multiple trusted sources say the same or very similar facts, then you know that it’s likely solid evidence.

Since none of these searches led me to either the article or just the image itself that we’re looking for, it’s time for a new search. What I did next was type in exactly what is shown on the image – “Time it takes to transmit an infectious dose of Covid-19”. This immediately led me to find the image in question. The first two links that show up on Google are Reddit links. While at first this doesn’t seem too encouraging, once you click on the Reddit links, you will be taken to the image.

So, the first link will bring you to a subreddit called r/coolguides, which showed the same original picture we’re looking for.

However, the Redditors in the comments who provided links to sources did not provide the exact source of the picture we need. The first source linked us to with this image of the chart:

and the second source was a link to the University of Minnesota’s research on Covid-19 and mask transmission with this version of the same findings:

So, after not finding the same photo, I clicked on the second Reddit link on Google and immediately found the direct source of the image.

This subreddit was r/Masks4All and it clearly shows the same image and the direct tweet from Wall Street Journal Health. So, with that we can click on the WSJ Health username and go directly to their Twitter page.

From there, you click on the media tab to see all of their photos and media which shows us the image we’re looking for from January 6, 2022. WSJ provided the link to the article where this image was originally from as seen here:

Overall, I think it’s safe to state that this was a credible and legit piece of media and information. Wall Street Journal is a known reliable source and so their findings can definitely be trusted. Plus, we were given multiple sources that showed off the same findings providing much more security in this information. Doing research like this is extremely vital because this could’ve just been a random source posting random numbers and misleading people into thinking a certain mask is better than one that is actually safer. Information on Covid is always worth double checking because this image did not look super convincing at first glance, but by digging deeper we see that Wall Street Journal were actually the ones to provide that information.