Don’t let the government use the Israel-Hamas war as an excuse to censor social media

This would be a terrible decision for many reasons.

Two days ago, phones were flooded with news alerts that the Israeli military had blown up a hospital in Gaza and killed 500 people. Major news organizations like the New York Times and politicians like Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib shared the news from the Gaza Health Ministry.

Within hours, it was revealed that the strike most likely did not come from Israel but from the terrorist group Islamic Jihad within Gaza. The following morning, we learned that the hospital wasn’t destroyed at all.

This is just one example, but over the last few weeks, keeping up with the latest news about the Israel-Hamas war has been like trying to drink out of a firehose. With constant videos, images, and stories emerging online from both sides of the conflict, it has been overwhelming and challenging to sort between fact and fiction.

Now, politicians are calling for social media platforms to limit what information users are seeing. Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, Washington Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and New York Attorney General Letitia James are some who have reached out to social media platforms like X, Meta, Rumble, YouTube, and TikTok, demanding that they explain why their moderation policies have allowed posts to remain online. 

X, formerly known as Twitter, has been particularly under fire since, unlike other platforms with strict moderation policies, X has allowed information to spread largely unrestricted.

In the European Union, X could face billions of dollars in fines for violating the Digital Services Act, which prevents platforms from hosting “misinformation” and violent content. However, while Joe Biden and other politicians have called for social media regulation, the First Amendment prevents them from passing any laws restricting what kind of war-related content is allowed on social media platforms. Their hands are especially tied after the Twitter Files exposed government pressure on Twitter to remove posts during the 2020 election cycle.  

Since the call to moderate content related to the current war, TikTok and Meta have both proudly stated that they have removed 1000s videos and live streams since the October 7, Hamas attack. 

X, however, published an open letter stating that while they are removing accounts from terrorist organizations and posts that are openly calling for violence, they are battling “misinformation” through their Community Notes feature rather than removal.

Every social media company has the right to set its moderation policies as a private business. If TikTok and Meta want to remove posts related to the war, they are free to do so. (Although they should be making that choice of their own volition, not due to government pressure). However, I am happy X has allowed the information to flow freely.

Although the October 7 images were violent and difficult to digest, it was good for many of us to see and understand what war and terror genuinely look like. It also has been eye-opening to see how many American citizens celebrated the terrorist attack that day, something we would not have known if the posts were removed. 

As for “misinformation,” yes, false information has been spread on the internet, but do we really want politicians like Rashida Tlaib, who were complicit in spreading lies, to decide what is true and what is not? Ultimately, the truth was revealed, and we also learned which journalists were uncritically reporting solely based on Hamas propaganda.

If the government limits what we are allowed to see and not to see, they take away our ability to come to our own conclusions regarding the war. We could not inform ourselves or hold individuals and the government accountable for their actions. 

Hopefully, the war will come to a swift end, but until then, we need to be able to share information without government restriction and continue to shed light on this dark situation. 

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Kiyah Willis
Kiyah Willis
Kiyah Willis is a fellow at BASEDPolitics.