I kinda figured Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) wasn’t a fan of the “Jackass” television shows and movies (although I personally find them gut-bustingly hilarious despite my alleged high IQ and fancy college degree), but the famed film critic ruffled feathers when he posted the following tweet after “Jackass” player Ryan Dunn’s death in a car crash early Monday morning:
As one might imagine, response to Mr. Ebert’s missive elicited some angry responses, so much so that Facebook pulled his page from the site. Ebert fired back:
The thumbs and keyboards of Ebert defenders and defamers, as well as Ebert himself, have been working overtime ever since.
Facebook spokeman Andrew Noyes later was quoted as saying that Mr. Ebert’s page “was removed in error.”
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a libertarian when it comes to the First Amendment, and I applaud anyone who chooses to exercise this right and out himself as a jerk or an idiot….it makes life easier for demographers to sort them into target audiences boxes.
But the larger issue here is the impact of social media on the laws of free speech.
For instance, let’s say the leadership at Facebook tomorrow decides they really want to see Barack Obama re-elected next year, and that they’re going to pull the pages of every other candidate. In theory, it’s their bat and ball, and they can make up the rules as they see fit.
Same thing with Twitter. I doubt that’s going to happen, but it could.
I may be wrong here, but unlike the “equal time” rules governing broadcast media (which use the public airwaves to deliver their messages), there are no laws governing what private businesses can and cannot do with their online media properties.
And that means that anything you’re posting to a social media site belongs to someone else, and that they have the power to remove, edit, block or delete your content depending on how they feel on any given morning.
Your freedom of speech is only as free as the owners of social media platforms want it to be.