Kyle Smith ‘16 – In wake of events at Romeo High School involving racial tension and fake Twitter accounts, our first amendment right – the freedom of speech – arises as an important topic. And there is a common misconception many need to be aware of.

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean one can say anything they want without consequences.

“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 a redress of grievances.”

Having been so long ago, the Founding Fathers obviously weren’t thinking about sub-Tweeting when writing this. Lawmakers and court rulings overtime have had to make important decisions regarding what is and isn’t protected by the freedom of speech (which is only a small part of the first amendment).

Sometimes it still might seem ambiguous or complicated. Going on each social media site and reading the Terms and Conditions can be confusing and take hours. Just make life a lot easier and abide by some guidelines of common sense.

Treat the internet and social media as if it were a public space. After all, many people have thousands of “friends” added who are all going to see the things they share. Things employers and family could see. Remember, even if with account settings set to private, slip-ups can happen, just like how somebody might be whispering too loud.

Slander, libel, and defamation are not protected under freedom of speech. Making a spoof account of somebody can be a genuinely funny thing without doing harm. But in a recent incident linked to our high-school, a fake Twitter account was made of another student which could have hurt said student.

The account was mean in nature.

It had the anniversary of Columbine set as the birthday, and also a very brief bio about being a “school shooter.” Quickly the school day was interrupted once fellow students reported it. Busy administrators and staff now had to take time away from other important duties to investigate and address the issue.

While it was determined to be a joke, it was a flagrant one that had to be taken seriously, because the one time it’s treated like a joke could be the one time it’s actually real. Also, besides it being in poor taste, choices like that can have serious consequences, including imprisonment; and the first amendment won’t be there to save the day.

Long story short, speak responsibly. In the heat of the moment, it’s best to think-twice or just walk away before saying or posting something that could be interpreted as a threat or as hate speech.

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