It is fallacious to argue that blocking someone on social media constitutes a denial of a person’s freedom of speech and expression.
I recently decided to trim my Facebook friends list. I was foolish enough before to approve almost all friend requests that came my way without any sort of filtering process.
However, I regretted my lackadaisical attitude to social media privacy when my Facebook posts were screencaptured and used in attacks agianst me. In order to lessen the likelihood of such instances I then decided to unfriend people whom I deduced from their own Facebook posts were likely to screencap mine. Yes, it was an inelegant and unscientific method, but it was necessary.
Social media has changed our lives tremendously. It has, to a large extent, empowered the masses. But it has also brought about new ways to offend, insult, annoy, attack, harass and harm other people.
That is why social media mediums such as Twitter and Facebook have introduced functions such as “Block”, “Remove as Friend”, “Unfollow”, “Mute” and so on. Basically, it is so that you may have a social media experience that is enjoyable.
Many social media users have made a big deal of how politicians, elected representatives, celebrities or state officers block them on social media. They claim that these people do not respect freedom of speech and expression by blocking other users on social media.
It is fallacious to argue that blocking someone on social media constitutes a denial of the blocked person’s freedom of speech and expression.
Freedom of speech and expression is the right to say something or express thoughts about something. If you are stopped from saying something, then your freedom of speech and expression has been denied or restricted. If you say something and then you are punished for it, then that constitutes a restriction on your freedom of speech and expression.
It must also be emphasised that it is usually the State that has the responsibility to uphold freedom of speech and expression and it is also the State that is usually the biggest culprit in denying the same.
But if, for example, you are blocked on Twitter by another user, that is not a denial of your rights. You are still free to say whatever you want, even about the person who blocked you. The only difference is that the person who blocked you cannot see your tweets and you cannot see that person’s tweets. You also cannot “mention” him and vice versa.
Your right to free speech and expression does not come with the right to force other people to listen to you. If you shout something via a loudhailer, you cannot claim that your freedom of speech and expression is violated if other people in the vicinity cover their ears.
There is some merit in the argument that elected representatives and ministers should not block social media users, as they play a public role and people should be able to communicate with them. But the basis of that meritorious argument is good governance, openness and transparency, not freedom of speech and expression.
Also, these people, even though they are essentially public officers, should be able to exercise the option of blocking some users who are abusive to them. This should have nothing to do with freedom of speech and expression.
Your social media activities should not be open to abuse. Your social media experience should not have to be painful. So go ahead and unfriend, and block away!