Social Media and the First Amendment

By: Konstantinos Katsoudas

            One of the most divisive and pervasive discussions in American society over the last several years is the role of social media, in particular Facebook and Twitter, in the face of disinformation on its platforms. Republicans especially have been railing against the platforms for removing their content or placing disclaimers on them whenever they post about topics ranging from vaccines to election integrity.[1] However, Democrats have also been voicing frustration with social media platforms, saying that these platforms are not doing enough to combat disinformation, as well as racism, and that there should be zero-tolerance for that sort of behavior.[2] While the Democrats think that the social media platforms should do more, the Republicans claim that the platforms do too much, and that this is in fact a violation of their constitutional rights.[3] Specifically, they invoke first amendment protections in their arguments that they are being “censored.” However, the idea that social media platforms are governed by the first amendment is a logical fallacy and seems to be nothing more than a method by which they can rile up their base and create a boogeyman.

            The text of the first amendment is “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”[4] This amendment, just as with the rest of the Constitution makes it clear in the text that this was written for the purposes of defining and reigning in the government’s powers. Republicans would argue that their posts being removed and attached with disclaimers constitutes censorship and an abridgement of their first amendment rights. However, this is never how the any of the Constitution or its amendments have ever been interpreted by Congress or the courts.[5] In fact, they have been interpreted in the exact opposite fashion from what the Republicans would want. The government is barred from being able to dictate to the social media companies how they can govern their platforms, including whom they allow on them and what they are allowed to say. The courts have always interpreted the amendments with a lot of deference for citizens and companies, even to the detriment of the government and its clear that the trend would continue if somehow legislation was passed to limit the social media platforms in any way.

[1] See Marguerite Reardon, Section 230: How It Shields Social Media, and Why Congress Wants Changes, CNET (July 29, 2021),

[2] Id.

[3] See generally id.

[4] U.S. Const. amend. I, § 1.

[5] Amber Phillips, No, Twitter Is Not Violating Trump’s Freedom of Speech, Washington Post (May 29, 2020),