Is Trump right to sue Facebook, Google and Twitter over alleged censorship?
- As of July 7, 2021, President Donald Trump is suing Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube for suspending his social media accounts after the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
- Facebook announced on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 that Trump’s account would not be reinstated, however stating it was “inappropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.” The ruling leaves the possibility of reinstatement after six months.
- The ban followed the Wednesday, January 6 incited in which Trump supporters rallied on the US Capitol. After chaos ensued, there were four fatalities, 52 arrests, and 14 police officers injured.
- Trump was impeached for the second time after allegedly provoking violence at Capitol Hill, but was acquitted in mid February.
- Twitter permanently banned Trump on January 8 “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” YouTube did the same with Trump’s channel for “violating policies against inciting violence” in January, and noted they would lift the ban after violence decreased.
- Pew Research Center released a poll in January 27, stating 58% of Americans support social media banning President Trump with 41% in disagreement. More Republicans than Democrats believe it was wrong.
Former President Trump has announced that he is leading a lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter, and Google for censoring him, and other conservatives in the United States. Despite the efforts that liberal-leaning media is making to protect the namesake of these tech giants, there are legitimate concerns, both morally and constitutionally, that exist regarding habitual censorship from these companies.
While Facebook, Google, and Twitter are theoretically private companies, their vast accessibility and government-induced protection justifiably surrender the typical formalities of a privately-owned entity. Pew Research concludes that approximately 69% of Americans have used Facebook, stressing the entities' dominance as a global sphere of circulated media. Legal scholar Jameel Jaffer claims that the First Amendment concerns protection from the government, saying, 'we resisted the centralization of control over the public square in the government because we didn't like the idea of centralization of that kind of power.' Jaffer also mentions that social media companies centralize the same type of power that was accounted for in the Constitution. As the Founding Fathers obviously couldn't foresee the widespread dependence of social media, the nature of how the First Amendment is interpreted should be adjusted.
Regarding the premise of Trump's argument, there is no question whether or not social media commits unethical censorship, largely in political contexts. In 2016, a group of former Facebook employees reported that the company routinely regulates feed from conservatives on their platform. With that being said, Trump's lawsuit poses strong questions into the essence of social media entities, the rights and responsibilities they have, and the path forward. The First Amendment is under attack, and allowing social media entities to retain these divisive powers enables the depletion of free speech.
As a past user of the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, former President Trump was subject to the networks' user agreement, just like every other user. Trump violated these agreements repeatedly and was therefore banned. It really is that simple. Though the former President is certainly no ordinary citizen, the rules still apply to him, and these companies were right to hold him accountable. It's particularly ironic that a supposed 'law and order' president cannot accept the consequences for his actions, even though they were clearly in violation of a policy to which he agreed.
Rather than trying to play the victim, the former President should show some remorse for his clear violations and lead by example. Perhaps by acknowledging that his speech violated the companies' policies and caused grave danger, culminating in an insurrection and publicly apologizing, he might even be welcomed back onto the platform. Suing these companies looks petty and vindictive, hardly the actions of a former world leader.
Finally, suing these tech giants is bad for business. The various Trump companies are reportedly already suffering from associations with the Capitol insurrection. Recent New York indictments show this, how they are long associated with improper dealings with contractors from Trump's casino property days as well. By suing Twitter and Facebook, the former President is sending a message to potential future business partners that he will not respect their agreements and take them to court if they attempt to rein him in.