Themed Social Media Accounts: Who Should Be Allowed A Platform?

One thing I’ve been wondering, especially recently, is when it’s appropriate to allow people (or groups of people) a social media platform.

Lots of people (especially within the circles I associate with) support the idea of administrators deleting Nazi YouTube/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/etc. accounts so as to deny them an easy way to propagate their ideas, strengthen their communities, and influence others. This seems permissible (even obligatory?) to me, especially given how many hate crimes, violence, and even deaths have been caused at least in part by white men becoming radicalized through such social media communities.

There are, however, instances where it is less clear what we should do. An example that immediately comes to mind is social media accounts which – either implicitly or explicitly – support starvation and extreme thinness, or “pro-ana” accounts.

It is easy to find reasons why we might not want to allow such accounts: anorexia is potentially life-threatening and we do not want it presented in a glamorous or desirable manner to impressionable young children, nor do we want those already suffering from the disease to find encouragement to “give in” to it. On the other hand, arguments have been made that it is important that those suffering from anorexia have an expressive outlet and community which understands them, and to take this away from them by forcibly deleting pro-ana accounts would harm them in a different way.

This puzzle can be generalized to other sorts of social media communities. Should we allow blogs which romanticize depression and suicide if they also serve as an outlet for such thoughts? Or subReddits for pedophiles, which provide a place for sharing disturbing and objectionable fantasies but also for the non-judgmental exchange of coping mechanisms and helpful therapeutic/psychological treatments?

When it is permissible to forcibly delete themed social media accounts or communities seems like an incredibly difficult and nuanced question. While there are some clear cases of when it is permissible (e.g. pro-Nazi accounts), there are a multitude of cases wherein the verdict is unclear. I wonder if a principled approach to this issue can ever be formulated such that when it is applied we can come to an intuitively correct answer in every scenario. I am doubtful. I think each case will have to be dealt with individually, with factors unique to each situation having to be taken into concern.

One thought on “Themed Social Media Accounts: Who Should Be Allowed A Platform?

  1. “While there are some clear cases of when it is permissible (e.g. pro-Nazi accounts), there are a multitude of cases wherein the verdict is unclear.” The examples you use and categorize either as impermissible (pro-Nazi accounts) or prima facie impermissible (ana, depression, pedophiles) can have their permissibility determined by using freedom of speech “incitement to (imminent) violence” language. Pro-Nazi accounts are bad because they encourage impermissible (up to and including violent and lethal) behavior toward other people. Ana/ depression accounts are permissible because if they encourage violence, it is only violence towards oneself. Pedophilic accounts can be determined to be permissible or impermissible based on whether they seek to support pedophiles in restraining themselves from doing harm to minors, or encourage the sexual objectification of minors. However, this does mean that any pro-Nazi accounts which explicitly state that they mean no harm toward minorities may have to be allowed. There would have to be further arguments that violence towards others is woven into the entire Nazi ideology. I can also imagine being forced to accept a white supremacist account if they took a patronizing tone rather than a violent one. E.g. “Whites are better than all other races, the others are so feeble-minded and worthless, we should all do our best to help them because they are so inferior.” That’s basically what Christian missionaries were doing to first nations back in the day, and we don’t consider that permissible either. I may have started down a rabbit hole here, but they’re good questions to consider.

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