We are pleased to announce that Courtney Triplett, a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the winner of the 2021 ChapmanAlbin Law School Scholarship Essay Contest. Ms. Becker’s essay was selected from over 200 entries. She will be awarded $1,000 to be used towards tuition and/or expenses at the University of South Carolina School of Law.
For this year’s essay, scholarship applicants were asked to argue for or against this proposition: social media outlets have a responsibility to block content which is (1) patently or demonstrably false, and (2) likely to incite violence.
Read Courtney’s winning essay below.
On January 6th 2021, as a violent mob invaded the Capitol building, broke windows, trashed elected officials’ offices, and posted all of it on social media, I was napping. I was home sick from work that day and planned on spending my afternoon resting, attempting to rid myself of a nasty cold with the help of some peppermint tea and Gilmore Girls reruns. Waking up to an insurrection was the last thing I’d expected; I even had the thought that I was fever dreaming, that the images I saw plastered across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were symptoms of my illness and not symptoms of our culture.
This particular uprising is just one example of the power of words and is searing evidence for the fact that misinformation can result in chaos, violence, and even death. Former President Donald Trump was later banned from the platforms of all the major social media giants for inciting violence and spreading misinformation, which begs the question: is it ever the responsibility of social media outlets to censor content, and if so, under what circumstances? The power to influence is the power to both protect and harm, inform and misdirect. Social media outlets are now more than simply “a blank page” for users to brain-dump their innermost thoughts upon. It has become a crucial part of our societal structure, intertwined with our everyday lives, the decisions we make, the people we meet.
Not to go all “Spiderman” here, but it’s been said that “with great power comes great responsibility,” and however cliché of an adage, it holds true. The vast majority of the wealth and power in this country lies in the hands of our corporations, and social media platforms are no different.
Alongside the court of public opinion, governmental regulations hold corporations accountable for minimizing their damage to the environment and for “shrinking their carbon footprints.” This type of environmental damage is easy to spot: water and air pollution, deforestation, and the like; however, the damage that misinformation and incitement do to our society is just as devastating.
It follows that social media corporations should be held accountable, at least partly, for societal damages and thus, have a responsibility to minimize the harmful effects of their product. Perhaps Twitter is not contributing to the ever-growing hole in the Ozone layer at the same rate as other giant corporations. Still, by allowing misinformation likely to incite violence, they contribute to the pollution of the minds of society, something that can cause death and destruction as effectively as bacterium-filled drinking water or skin cancer. It is the ultimate responsibility of social media platforms to ensure they are doing their part to recognize and minimize their brand of toxic smoke, poisoning consumer lungs one tweet at a time.
The investor rights attorneys at ChapmanAlbin, LLC congratulate Ms. Triplett and all who participated in this year’s Essay Contest. If you are a current or incoming law student, be on the look-out for our next scholarship opportunity in Spring 2022.
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