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Every 2nd Thursday of the month

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Discussion group 1 - Squirrel Hill

This month's topic is a corrollary to our previous discussion on the topic of free speech and the 1st amendment and the trend of “no-platforming” offensive speakers on college campuses. It concerns social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter that present themselves as public fora. Are they private businesses that have the right to control/censor speech on their platforms? Or by presenting themselves as public for a should they be regulated as a public utility and subject to the restrictions placed on the government by the 1st amendment? And if they should be deemed private enterprise with the ability to set their own standards for acceptable speech, should there be any limits to their power to limit speech? For example, consider the current situation with Alex Jones/Infowars ban on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Is such a ban acceptable? Who gets to decide what constitutes “hate speech” or what is unacceptably incendiary? Or even if certain viewpoints such as liberal or conservative are unacceptable? (Certain RWNJs are claiming that Twitter bans or censors conservative voices on their platform.) What should the rules be? Or should there even be any rules? And who gets to decide?

As we have been doing for the past few months, we will vote on a topic for next month's discussion. Please try to think of a controversial topic or ethical concern to consider for next month.