No: Twitter censorship infringes upon free speech

George Chang, Photo Editor

The shutdown of Trump’s Twitter account on Jan. 8 reignited the debate regarding whether or not censorship by big tech companies has gotten out of hand. There is no doubt that Trump’s continuous message that the election was rigged against him incited the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. However, banning Trump from Twitter is a step too far.

Many Americans, especially Republicans, have long complained about censorship from major tech companies, including Twitter, Facebook, and Google. These companies act as platforms for conversation, garnering billions of users. So, they should preserve freedom of speech, even if what is posted advocates a belief contrary to their own. This responsibility protects social media companies from libel laws, which publishers, like news outlets, are not protected from. No one hopes for another violent incident like what happened at the Capitol, but does that mean, in the future, companies like Twitter have the power to decide which tweets should and shouldn’t be censored?

Throughout his presidency, Trump was incredibly vocal on all social media platforms, and at times, unpresidential. Twitter’s permanent ban of Trump’s account, despite his more than 88 million followers, came after he released a video asking the rioters to “go home.” Along with the ban, Twitter issued a statement saying: “We have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” 

As a private corporation, Twitter retains the right to do anything they desire with their service. However, the notion that a corporation as large and influential as Twitter can dictate which opinions can and can’t be heard is a terrifying reality. 

The silencing of the nation’s president on Twitter was not an isolated incident – other social media companies also banned Trump and the social media platform Parler, which was founded with the aim to provide a nonpartisan public square, was removed from Amazon Web Service, Apple’s App Store, and Google Play Store. Parler has a user base of mostly conservatives––one of the reasons it was created was to be a safe space for conservatives as other platforms like Twitter and Facebook censored conservative voices. The removal was rooted in a claim that several comments from Parler users that incited the violence at the Capitol weren’t dealt quickly enough. Executives at Parler believed that the app was targeted because of its largely conservative user base. 

The notion that a corporation as large and influential as Twitter can dictate which opinions can and can’t be heard is a terrifying reality.

— George Chang

While it is mostly conservatives that are complaining about censorship at the moment, it does not mean that members on the other side of the  aisle are safe from this threat because social media companies hold tremendous control over our everyday speech.

Though you don’t have to agree with the viewpoint of many conservatives, the thought that companies with such large-scale influence, being able to remove and silence thoughts they disagree with, is unsettling. Perhaps the problem isn’t who Twitter and Facebook ban, but how much power the big social media companies have over the news and opinions that we see.