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.