I'M SORRY to be the one to have to tell the president, but someone has to : Social media is not the public square, not even a virtual one.

Not Facebook. Not Reddit. Not YouTube. And definitely not Twitter, where a few days after Facebook announced it was barring some extremist voices like Alex Jones, President Trump furiously tapped out :

''I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms. This is the United States of America - and we've what is known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH! We are monitoring and watching closely!''

He can monitor [yes, that's definitely a creepy word] and watch all he wants, but it will not matter one bit. Because the First Amendment requires only that the government not make laws that restrict freedom for its citizens.

Here's the whole text if you need a refresher - and anyway, it's a kind of short :

''Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.''

With all the loud opinions and screechy videos and belligerent tweets - and that's just our president on any given Sunday - many people have mixed up the actual free speech rights of ''AMERICAN CITIZENS'' with the ability of loudmouths and bullies to spew whatever they like to tens of millions of people any time of day or night.

The confusion is understandable. Those inventive entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, with their smooth libertarian groove and anything-goes tone, let users huff and puff away so much that you would think that they were actually committed to the idea of a free-for-all.

And they were, until it became clear that humanity could get really ugly and out of control pretty quickly and turn it into a Free Speech Thunderdome.

It was too much, then too little and most definitely too late. Now they are realizing that reining that expression will be hard if not impossible, since they taught everyone that they could say whatever they want to on their platforms.

They have been trying to have it, both ways, and as a result their responses have been perplexing.

In testimony to Congress last fall, for example, Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter, seemed to call his platform a public-square several times, even though he also noted that the company was within its rights to remove content.

''We can only stand for freedom of expression if people feel safe to express themselves in the first place,'' he said in an interview with the Wired magazine soon after

''A lot people come to Twitter and they don't see a service. They see what looks like a public square  and they have the same expectation as they have of a public square, and that is what we have to get right.''

The World Students Society thanks author and researcher Kara Swisher, an editor at large for technology news website Recode and producer of the Recode Decode podcast.


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