English Article: Who gets to censor social media?

Who gets to censor social media? On Monday evening, a controversial video was removed from social media platforms. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, testified on Wednesday, before U.S. legislators and Turkey’s parliament passed a bill giving the government more control over social media. This reignited the global debate about censorship and the role of government and social media.

Many people in the United States argue that their First Amendment rights are infringed upon when social media platforms remove specific content. Some countries, including China and Iran, have banned the use of Facebook completely. France, Germany, and Austria remove all posts denying the Holocaust from social media platforms. In Israel, thousands of accounts were removed ahead of the 2018 election. Critics complain that the accounts expressed disagreement with Israeli government policy and their removal was seen as an act of censorship. In 2014, Russia demanded that Facebook block all support of the opposition candidate and block protest events.

The new Turkish bill requires social media platforms with more than one million daily users to have a local representative based in Turkey who would be responsible for removing content that the government deems offensive. Critics of the bill complain that this gives the government too much control to censor the freedom of speech on the platforms. Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch, released a statement saying, “Social media is a lifeline for many people who use it to access news, so this law signals a new dark era of online censorship”

Meanwhile, a Facebook spokesperson apologized for not removing a false COVID-19 video sooner; “We’ve removed this video for making false claims about cures and prevention mentions for COVID-19. People who reacted to, commented on, or shared this video, will see messages directing them to authoritative information about the virus. It took us several hours to enforce against the video and we’re doing a review to understand why this took longer than it should have.”

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been used to spread disinformation and sow discord, especially before elections, but they are also an important tool for sharing new, information and experiences. There are many concerns and criticisms of how they are run and operated, but it seems that these social media giants are here to stay.

Vocabulary

reignite . infringe . deny . platform . critic . opposition . deem . censor . lifeline . authoritative

  1. (v) to regard or consider in a specified way. ____________
  2. (n) a person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something. ____________
  3. (v) to arouse or inflame again. ____________
  4. (n) a thing on which someone or something depends or which provides a means of escape from a difficult situation. ____________
  5. (adj) able to be trusted as being accurate or true; reliable. ____________
  6. (v) actively break the terms of (a law, agreement, etc.). ____________
  7. (n) a group of adversaries or competitors, especially a rival political party or athletic team. ____________
  8. (n) a place for public discussion; forum. ____________
  9. (v) examine (a book, movie, etc.) officially and suppress unacceptable parts of it. ____________
  10. (v) state that one refuses to admit the truth or existence of. ____________

Comprehension Questions

  1. What is one of the important events that happened with social media this week?
  2. Which two countries removed Facebook posts regarding that country’s election?
  3. What does Turkey’s new bill require?
  4. Why did Facebook remove the COVID-19 video?

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you have a social media account? Which platform do you use the most and why?
  2. Do you ever share or post about controversial topics like politics? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think that social media companies have a responsibility to remove disinformation from their sites?
  4. Do you think governments should control what is posted on social media accounts?
  5. Who do you trust more to oversee social media posts, the companies or the government?Why?

Expressions or Idioms

to sow discord

To sow is to plant a seed. Discord is a disagreement, unrest, or lack of harmony. To sow discord is to create a problem or to cause unrest. Can you think of an example of someone who has sown discord, either in your life personally or in the news?

Grammar extension for ESL students

Who gets to censor social media?

In English, ‘get’ has many different meanings. Students of English as a second language often confuse the various meanings.

Complete the sentences with the correct form of the verb ‘get’
1) get — to allow/permit

I don’t think the government should _______ to decide what we post on social media.

2) get — to become

I’m _______ married next spring.

3) get — to arrive

She _______ to work at half past nine yesterday morning.

4) get — to receive/obtain/buy

What did you _______ for your birthday?

5) phrasal verbs — get on/off a bus, get on/along , get up

I usually _______ at seven o’clock and I _______ the bus at half past eight. I don’t go to school with my sister because we don’t _______ very well.

Activity

Who gets to censor social media? Should it be the government, the companies, the user, or someone else?

Write a persuasive essay discussing your opinion.
Remember the format for a persuasive essay:

  • Introduction Paragraph
  • Body Paragraphs
  • Opposing View Paragraph
  • Conclusion Paragraph

Answers

Vocabulary: 1- deem, 2- critic, 3- reignite, 4- lifeline, 5- authoritative, 6- infringe, 7- opposition, 8- platform, 9- censor, 10- deny

Comprehension questions: 1- a video was removed from social media platforms, Tech giants testified in front of US congress, Turkey passed a new bill regarding social media companies, 2- Israel and Russia, 3- Large social media companies to have a local representative to block or remove posts on their site, 4- for making false claims

Grammar extension: 1- get, 2- getting, 3- got, 4- get, 5- get up/get on/get on or get along

Sources: aljazeera.com, cnn.com, wikipedia.org, theverge.com, nytimes.com, lexico.com

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Tanya Halkyard

Tanya Halkyard

English Articles: Lessons for conversation classes to improve English comprehension and production. For online lessons contact tanya@global-institutes.com