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Can Social Media Ban Free Speech?

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Since their inception, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Parler, and many others claim to fame is freedom of speech by its users. People can say what they want, however, hateful or racist, about anything without being censored. That was the case until Trump won the U.S. presidency in late 2016. Trump's corrupt and non-patriotic partisan tweets flooded the airwaves with outright lies about whatever topic that bothered him and millions of followers read it as "truth". Trump will go down in history as the "Twitter" president. Despite his rhetoric and lies sent to social media, the social media companies allowed it to continue despite what political position the company had, if any. They were very hesitant in shutting down his Twitter or FB account until 2020, when the amount of lies forced them to curtail his comments and others with fact checks.

It was only after Trump's insurrection speech on January 6th, 2021, where he personally told an angry crowd of followers to march down to the Capitol to protest the election results that he could not accept. He incited violence with his hateful words and "Stop the Steal" rhetoric about him losing the election by a rigged election. He had fed this rhetoric to his followers for months before and after the election. His foolish followers bought it and then acted just like when Hitler came to power in the Thirties. Now, Trump will get impeached again.

The social media companies were very tolerant of Trump but now are being chastised for blocking and shutting down Trump's social media platforms and rightly so. Trump's tweets have always been divisive and full of lies or half-truths. Still, millions of social media people send messages unfiltered every day, just not Trump. These followers still plan and organize for demonstrations using Trump as an excuse for their own political agendas.

Free speech is an American right but it has never been 100% free. It depends on where you are, who you are with, the situation you are in. One cannot incite a riot and expect nothing will happen and no criminal charges filed against the person inciting others to conspire and cause mayhem and destruction. One cannot enter into a building and falsely scream, "Fire", in order to clear the building or as a joke, without being charged a crime. One cannot say the N word around Blacks without some confrontation developing.

The founding Fathers of America expected that a person use common sense when believing in Freedom of Speech and it one does not, a crime could be charged if it incites others to break the law, insurrection. or causes death.

The Social media platforms do have a right to shutdown any account that violates their usage codes as they are private companies. They also have a right to control hate speech or false information via filters on their platforms. By allowing it, it makes them look bad. If government took control of these platforms, the threat to free speech would be far greater as the political party in charge could censor. As it it is now, it is just one guy named Trump, who can no longer use their platforms to send out his false propaganda.

Free speech is free but it does have limits.


perrya (author) on January 12, 2021:

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Good point. Thanks.

DW Davis from Eastern NC on January 11, 2021:

As you pointed out, a private company can limit speech on its platform in any way it chooses. The only reason Twitter gave for not removing Trump earlier was they created, out of thin air, a "World Leaders Exemption." After Trump incited the insurrection of Wednesday, Twitter felt it could no longer hide behind such a flimsy excuse for not banning him as it had banned so many others for much less grievous then Trump committed over the last few years.

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