Bill of Rights Day: Free Speech and Social Media

In honor of Bill of Rights Day celebrated next week, we’re looking at the issues surrounding free speech and social media. Since the founding days of our country, free speech has been a cornerstone of American democracy.  While most Americans celebrate free speech as a vital component of civic discourse, their interpretations as to the extent of that right can differ significantly. Many dislike the idea of censorship in any form, while others insist, for example, on moderation of online and social media platforms.

Around the world, who can speak, who gets heard, and who makes the rules are critical sources of power. More and more, in the digital age, social media platforms play an integral role in deciding the speech norms and values for our society.

Some critics say that the government should play a larger role in regulating social media platforms. Others believe it should be up to the companies who own the platforms to regulate their users’ content, as Facebook has begun to do in recent weeks, announcing six cases that its newly formed oversight board will rule on, most of them having to do with inflammatory and hate speech, while others deal with posts that include false information.

Following the presidential election last month, some have abandoned more familiar social networks like Facebook and Twitter for newer platforms such as Parler, which have less content regulation and afford their users more freedom. All of this shines a spotlight on the question of “How far does the First Amendment go in guaranteeing citizens the right to offend others and to disseminate false information?”

This week’s Current Event resources allow you to explore and promote meaningful discussion with your students about the latest news on free speech and social media. 


Essential Questions:

    • What, if any, are the necessary limits on speech in a free society?
    • Is hate speech protected under the First Amendment? Is the broad dissemination of false information?
    • What role should a social media platform play in regulating its content?
    • What role should the government play in protecting or regulating speech online?
    • What possible effects, if any, could social media regulation have in an era of increasing hate speech?



Audio & Podcasts:

Free Speech And Hate Speech: Another Reckoning For Social Media Companies (35 mins)

Parler Tops App Stores As Free-Speech Social Media (2 mins)


Recent Articles:


Recent Editorials:

Political Cartoons:


The Week — Political Cartoons

Resources for using Political Cartoons in the Classroom: 

Primary Sources:

Maps & Timelines:

Lesson Plans:


Lesson Plans regarding Media & News Literacy (general):

Media Literacy Resources – Newseum

News & Media Literacy Lessons – Common Sense Education

Media Misinformation, Viral Deception, and “Fake News” – University of Wyoming

Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News – New York Times Lessons