In a single swipe, Twitter and Facebook have done what the U.S. government and the Constitution could not: delete the power of an irreverent president to rile and rally Americans to violent action.
Twitter announced Friday night that it has permanently suspended Trump’s account, while Facebook announced Thursday it has suspended Trump’s account indefinitely.
Let’s be clear. The decision by the two social media giants to muzzle Trump for incitement following his call to protesters against his election defeat to march on the U.S. Capitol — leading to a riot that left five people dead — has nothing to do with the First Amendment to the Constitution.
The amendment states: “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.”
This precious right enshrined in the Constitution restricts actions of the government — not private companies or individuals.
Twitter said in a blog post that it decided that Trump’s words were inflammatory and suspended his account “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
The world will never forget the desecration of democracy that occurred at the Capitol on Wednesday, fomented by the words of President Trump.
“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement. “Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”
In essence, the decision by Twitter and Facebook was tantamount to a private embrace of the responsibility to ensure public safety.
In this instance, they got it right.
Who protects fairness and the public interest?
Were the companies motivated by sheer self-interest in avoiding liability for the death and destruction that took place at the Capitol, or by a genuine concern for the public interest? We will never know.
But are we willing to rely on the judgment of Silicon Valley billionaires to always make the right decisions? And how can we ensure that political bias of any type remains absent from their decisions?
Today it is Trump banned from Twitter and Facebook. Tomorrow it could be Black Lives Matter or any other “progressive” organization that runs afoul of our societal notions of safety, propriety and decency. So the issue is a matter of principle, not partisanship.
Is Big Tech more powerful than government?
And thus the debate: should a private company like Twitter or Facebook have more power than the government to quash the speech of any individual, whether the president of the United States or Joe Six-Pack?
Answering the question now is essential for our society. The reality is that the Big Tech companies — Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter and others — will only become bigger and richer year-by-year.
So our government has to decide how much intrinsic power it will allow these companies to wield in our daily lives — power that in many cases surpasses the authority of the federal and state governments.
As sacred as political speech is to our American heritage, it is but one of the fundamental freedoms upon which Big Tech often impinges. Consider the range of issues raised by the privacy practices of the social media giants — including the collection, harvesting and sale of our personal information and related data.
What should Congress do?
The action by Twitter and…