Americans today face an age of information overload. With the evolution of Media 3.0, the internet, and the rise of Media 3.5—i.e., social media—relatively new communication technologies present pressing challenges for the First Amendment in American society. Twentieth century law defined freedom of expression, but in an information-limited world. By contrast, the twenty-first century is seeing the emergence of a world that is overloaded with information, largely shaped by an “unintentional press”—social media. Americans today rely on just a small concentration of private technology powerhouses exercising both economic and social influence over American society. This raises questions about censorship, access, and misinformation. While the First Amendment protects speech from government censorship only, First Amendment ideology is largely ingrained across American culture, including on social media. Technological advances arguably have made entry into the marketplace of ideas—a fundamental First Amendment doctrine—more accessible, but also more problematic for the average American, increasing his/her potential exposure to misinformation. <br/><br/>This thesis uses political and judicial frameworks to evaluate modern misinformation trends, social media platforms and current misinformation efforts, against the background of two misinformation accelerants in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and U.S. presidential election. Throughout history, times of hardship and intense fear have contributed to the shaping of First Amendment jurisprudence. Thus, this thesis looks at how fear can intensify the spread of misinformation and influence free speech values. Extensive research was conducted to provide the historical context behind relevant modern literature. This thesis then concludes with three solutions to misinformation that are supported by critical American free speech theory.
- The Online Misinformation Dilemma: "The Remedy To Be Applied Is More Speech"