How social media handles censorship and graphic content

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
FILE – In this April 26, 2017, file photo is a Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. Twitter has launched a privacy-protected version of its site to bypass surveillance and censorship after Russia restricted access to its service in the country. Russia has blocked access to Facebook and has limited Twitter in an attempt to try to restrict the flow of information about its war in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

A video on social media that showed a 14-year-old falling from an Orlando ride is still up. But how can that be if politicians get in trouble for social media posts?

Right now, there is no law or regulation prohibiting people from posting that video on Facebook or Twitter. Of course, sometimes there will be a label saying that the video is graphic but displaying those is up to the platform.

As for the teen’s father, he found out about his son’s death on social media before law enforcement informed him.

That video of a 14-year-old falling more than 400 feet to his death is not something that WINK News would ever show, but social media has a different story. It has been plastered across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

Alan Crowetz is a cybersecurity and internet expert. “So what do you do when a private company owns something that the majority of people in the country use on a daily basis?” Crowetz said.

For you and I, there isn’t much that can be done. You can file a complaint but that’s no guarantee that the video will be taken down. Social media companies are not like TV stations that must follow certain rules.

“I’m sure the companies have some internal documentation. What do we block? What do we allow? Who do we censor? And who do we not?” said Crowetz.

They have different protections under the law. Andrew Selepak is a social media professor at the University of Florida. “Section 230, essentially says that social media companies and internet companies, they are platforms, not publishers,” Selepak said.

“So it kind of gives them a free rein in terms of allowing whatever they want on their platforms, or whatever they don’t want on their platforms,” said Selepak.

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