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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

America’s cherished First Amendment right to free speech, for some reason, has disappeared online. While we may be technically free to say what we think in person, this country has changed and it’s harder than ever to disagree with radical new ideas promoted by the most progressive in society. And if you thought it was bad in person…try online.

Despite the First Amendment right to free speech, major social media companies instill their own content guidelines on what you can and cannot say. The Mark Zuckerberg-owned Facebook has notoriously banned controversial figures in the past, while users in Canada cannot access news via the platform due to an ongoing dispute with Ottawa.

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X, formerly known as Twitter, has eased its restrictions since Elon Musk’s takeover in 2022. The business magnate has unbanned former president Donald Trump, although he’s seldom used the app apart from a one-off return following his Fulton County indictment.

Musk claims he moved X away from its left-wing San Francisco bias to promote greater freedom of expression. Despite this, his ownership has been embroiled by disputes with advertisers, a defamation suit against the Anti-Defamation League, and the ‘community notes’ feature where a deed poll decides whether your post is accurate.

What Else Is There for Me?

Other social media platforms are available, and have a greater sense of autonomy over what can and cannot be said. It’s important to note that most, if not all, have guidelines over hateful or harmful content, but the banhammer is struck far less often compared to the likes of Facebook and Instagram.

As mentioned earlier, former president Trump was banned from Twitter (now X) shortly after the Capitol riots. Determined to get his message out, the businessman launched Truth Social towards the end of 2021. The platform works similarly to X, but has an increased character limit. It is, of course, owned by the Republican presidential frontrunner, so varying views are uncommon if a no-holds-barred debate is your goal.

Elsewhere on the internet, you can find apps like Gettr and Telegram. Gettr claims it “champions free speech, rejects cancel-culture and provides a… platform for the marketplace of ideas”, while Telegram prides itself on its privacy protection for its more than 500,000,000 users.

Social media platforms can also focus on video-based content, which has seen an increase in popularity following the rise of TikTok. Rumble and BitChute, the former being particularly popular for its monetization policies, offer a service similar to YouTube without the censorship. Despite their lack of privacy protections, Rumble has grown in recent years due to its support of “diverse opinions, authentic expression and the need for open dialogue”, and has been financially backed by U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, political donor Peter Thiel and Fox News host Dan Bongino.

Parler’s Return

One application which seemed to suffer a fall from grace was Parler. French for “to speak”, Parler was taken offline in April 2023 by then-owner Starboard. Despite the efforts of rapper Ye, or Kanye West as he’s better known, a purchase did not happen until December 15, 2023, with a relaunch scheduled for early 2024.

“Our mission is clear: to provide a secure and inclusive environment for open dialogue,” CEO Ryan Rhodes said in a statement. “While not aiming to compete with Truth Social, our monitoring measures are dedicated to keeping harmful content like terrorism, child porn, and trafficking off our platform.”

This is not an extensive list when you consider the hundreds of thousands of social media platforms available online. The best advice one can give is to play around with different sites until you find one which you enjoy.

Free speech outlets are out there – but all are crippled by the unfortunate fact that those who don’t believe in freedom of speech will do all they can to prevent those platforms from growing.