Havre Daily News - News you can use

Our View:

Facebook and the First Amendment


The job of the Havre Daily News is to report to its readers what happens — fun, pleasant and exciting but also unpleasant, disturbing and upsetting.

The paper tries to get the information to its readers as effectively as it can, including using social media.

Earlier this week, a vehicle crashed through the wall of a local casino. The driver was taken to the hospital, where he died.

The Havre Daily posted a photo a notice on Facebook and filed a story and photo on its website.

A family member raised two complaints — first, finding out about the crash on Facebook and, second, that inconsiderate comments were made on the post.

The Havre Daily did not take down the post, but has decided to not allow comments on its posts.

The purpose of the Havre Daily Facebook page is to share information with the community, not to provide a forum for people to comment on issues. While the Havre Daily likes the idea that people can share their comments on issues and would like to provide that service to the community, it is not the main purpose of the Havre Daily Facebook page.

Most comments on the Facebook page have been harmless and even good, but some are not. It is likely that comments some people found offensive on the post Tuesday were not intended to be malicious or offensive, but many did find them offensive. Even so, most of the comments were sympathetic to the family of the crash victim or generally inoffensive, but some comments were problematic. And in comments on Havre Daily Facebook posts previously, some have been maliciously offensive.

That led the paper to decide, as other news outlets in the country have, to try to shut down comments on the Facebook page.

Which leads to another common misconception — the meaning of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. One reader commented on the “irony” of a newspaper censoring offensive speech. Newspapers always have edited content of what is printed — including for accuracy, for length, for profanity, and so on.

Freedom of the press, stemming from the First Amendment of the

U.S. Constitution, means no one can tell media outlets what they can and cannot print and share with the public. It does not mean that the media outlet has to print whatever someone wants in the newspaper. The point of the First Amendment is to keep the government from telling anyone — news sources included — what they can or can’t say. It is not a requirement that a newspaper has to — or even should — print everything people submit.

But even free speech in that sense has limitations. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that certain speech, such as speech calling for and likely to incite violence, is not protected and people who can show that speech is slanderous — or printed material libelous — can sue for damages from the person saying things that are perceived to be slanderous.

The Havre Daily welcomes comments from readers about issues, events, and other topics, including complaints about the paper itself, and will print them as letters to the editor — if they are factually correct, not slanderous and meet its length requirement of 400 words or less, and the writer signs the letter, lists their town of residence and provides contact information in case questions arise.

People who wish to comment on a Facebook post are welcome to send letters to the editor.


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019

Rendered 10/13/2019 08:00