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Is Big Tech Violating Trump's Free Speech?

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Is Big Tech Violating Trump's Free Speech? January 11, 2021
OtherCulture & Society

@realDonaldTrump is gone, for now.

After more than 36,000 tweets in four years, with 88 million followers, the self-described "Hemingway of 140 characters" has been banned, perhaps permanently, by Twitter, his favorite social media megaphone, for what the company said was condoning the deadly riot at the Capitol by his supporters on Wednesday and preventing him from inciting further violence.   

Calling Twitter’s decision, which followed a temporary suspension by Facebook, "absolute insanity" Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that Twitter’s life-time ban of his father meant that America was entering "Orwell’s 1984." "Free speech no longer exists in America," he tweeted.

Hyperbole notwithstanding, Twitter and Facebook’s decision to deny Trump access to his accounts has divided free speech advocates. It is not only likely to make the internet an even more partisan place, but also focus attention on whether a small group of Silicon Valley-based social media companies or "corporate autocracies," as the New York Times called them, have too much power.

Finally, their decision to exile Trump at the end of his divisive, tumultuous presidency is likely to trigger greater pressure to repeal or amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects Twitter, Facebook and other social media companies and internet providers from being legally liable for what their users’ post.

While these issues are complicated, there is widespread agreement among First Amendment scholars and free speech advocates on one point: as a private company, Twitter has every legal right to ban even President Donald J. Trump or anyone else from its site. Though his defenders decried Twitter’s ban as a violation of the "First Amendment," Twitter’s action was legal. "The First Amendment applies only to governments," said Geoffrey Stone, of the University of Chicago. "It only prohibits government censorship, not decisions made by private businesses."

This piece originally appeared at Fox News

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images