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Technology is changing the fight for free speech

October 28,2017 05:21

Technology has revolutionized the way we do everything from paying our bills to ordering our meals. This revolution also extends to how we advance ideas and make strides for what we believe in. The next generation is equipped with more tools than any ...

Technology has revolutionized the way we do everything from paying our bills to ordering our meals. This revolution also extends to how we advance ideas and make strides for what we believe in. The next generation is equipped with more tools than any other before them to effectively advocate for causes, build a movement, and drive social change.
Last week during National Free Speech Week, we saw the same phenomena happening with the fight for the First Amendment. Young Americans for Liberty held free speech events throughout the country. With the successful use of hashtags such as #MakeLibertyWin and #MakeDiscourseCivilAgain, youth activists are broadening the reach of their ideas as they advocate for First Amendment rights and demand that their universities uphold them. Their pictures and videos are inspiring others to take action on their campuses, thereby generating greater attention to this national issue.
These hashtags are not just characters on a screen; they are one part of an innovative system of advocacy. Individuals across the country are finding others that agree with them through collaboration within Facebook groups and through the mutual share of a meme or tweet. They are engaging in virtual conversations about their shared ideology and inspiring one another to take those ideas into action without ever having met.
Technology has expanded the number of tools in the contemporary activist’s toolbelt. Fundraisers are created, and petitions are distributed online, giving new speed and power to advocates. Thanks to Facebook, you can now donate on your birthday for a cause and raise money in order to advocate for it. Change.org has brought petitioning to a whole new level by bringing your cause to every newsfeed in your network. As the reach of what you share grows, the cause begins attracting attention from larger organizations and media outlets.
If a message is displayed to the world just right, it might even “go viral” and be the catalyst for an ideological shift in an entire community. Now armed with both tools to spread awareness and garner support online and off, activists are utilizing both means to maximize their ideological imprint in the world.
However, elements of social media can also contribute to hostility towards certain ideas that some may disagree with. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter facilitate the unfortunate convenience of filtering the messages we want to hear. If you do not like something, you can simply remove it from your newsfeed or report it. We now have the ability to control not only who we connect with online but also opt to only hear the ideas we care to.
Ultimately, this leads to a moment of decision, a call to action in which we decide whether we want to live in virtual echo chambers or engage in healthy discourse with those who can challenge and expand our ideas.
YAL has steadfastly elected to engage in conversations instead of violence, constructive discourse instead of hasty Facebook arguments. Our National Fight for Free Speech has overturned 28 unconstitutional speech codes and restored rights to 590,202 students. Those achievements would not have been possible without the dedication of our activists or the network of mutual support and activity easily seen online.
We have every resource at our disposal to advance our ideas, and we should take advantage of them by engaging in respectful conversations and working to advance our ideas. The time for action is now.
Amber Loveshe is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is the Social Media Consultant for Young Americans for Liberty, a nonprofit organization based in Arlington, Va., with more than 900 college chapters across the country.
This piece is part of a Free Speech Week series from Young Americans for Liberty. Click here to view the first, second, third, and fourth pieces.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.

Blog Contributors,Libertarianism,Social Media,Technology,Instagram,Twitter,First Amendment,Facebook,Opinion,Beltway Confidential

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