Right now, a lot of people are very upset about Trump being banned from Twitter as well as other conservative media figures too.
I’m going to say something here that will not be popular among the political right. In fact, it will likely anger a lot of people, but I think it is worth saying- that Trump’s ban from Twitter was not bad. In fact, Twitter had every right to ban Trump, and its actions were not unjustified from a legal-philosophical viewpoint.
I don’t want this to be regarded as a “defense” of Twitter. Rather, it is a defense of a greater principle that while exercised by a major corporation under less-than-honorable circumstances, is still a legitimate principle and pertains to any viewpoint because it applies to the rule of law and ultimately, freedom of speech.
First, Twitter is a private corporation.
Twitter is not the federal government. When you are on Twitter, you are in their corporate playground. They make the rules for the playground. If you don’t like the rules, DON’T PLAY. This is something that “conservatives” have said for years to liberals, and many times have been lax to enforce for often financial gain or political optics. Whether or not this was the right action in other platforms, or in the case of Twitter, banning Trump, it is fundamentally irrelevant, since Twitter can ban anybody they wish as it is THEIR COMPANY, and therefore, they have a right to do this, and they chose to exercise it. Many complain about how the government unrighteously forces businesses to engages in practices or serve clientele that they normally would not want to, and truly, there is an argument to be made from the business side. That said, this argument also applies to Twitter as well- they should not be forced to accept something they do not want to.
Second, Twitter is exercising her rights under Section 230.
I mention 230 because a lot of people on the political right, and even the political left- including Biden -have said they want to abolish Section 230 of the federal code. This is the law that, as I have explained before, allows with the exception for gross violations of the law such as child sexual abuse material or narcotics trafficking, for platforms to police themselves and choose what content they want to put up.
This is a really great thing, because this is what allows 4Chan to function as does Reddit too, with them both having very diverse and opposing viewpoints. Platforms can police themselves without the fear of potential liability for the actions of a user. Without 230, there would be no freedom of speech online for US users because service providers and websites would become potentially liable for speech online that is accused of inciting or even just merely insulting another person. Freedom of speech would exist as a law in the books, but not in practice because the companies would enforce self-censorship out of fear of legal action being taken against them.
Third, there are platforms other than Twitter.
The self-ghettoization that has taken place over the last decade and a half with the rise of social media is astounding, for while Twitter and Facebook are large and useful in reaching many people, there has been a “zero-sum” game with regard to online communities, with most of them being filtered into either these two and people “trapped” on their plantations, but not by force, but choice.
If one goes back to the early days of the Internet, many more groups existed. There were “webrings”, “usenet message boards”, “IRC chatboards’, “Yahoo! Groups”, and individual online forums and communities. Some of these still exist, but many were abandoned in favor of the corporate giants.
You do realize that there are platforms other than those owned by Zuckerberg and Dorsey? Yes, they are harder to find, but that is also OK, since communities come from human need and interaction. They do not need to rely on a coporate behemoth, and if one does not like it, they can go to another place. Yes, it will not be as easy to use, and there will not be as many users, and it won’t have the nice simple features that Facebook or Twitter offer, but is one willing to sacrifice principle for convenience? Why not then sacrifice freedom for the illusion of security, as what is the difference except the particular tools used in question?
Fourth, Trump really did incite people with his words to the legal endangerment of Twitter.
Every case of why a person should be removed, from a moderation standpoint, is unique because circumstances that apply to one person may not apply to another. Trump is a very special case because he is not just any average person. This is the President of the United States, the most powerful office right now in the world. Trump’s position is not that of an average Twitter user. Catholics get upset at the Pope for ambiguous, unclear, or questionable statements, even if meant well, because his position and office mean something over the average priest, and when he says something publicly, it carries major social weight. The same is to be said about the Presidency, because simply by the fact that Trump is president, his words mean a lot, and he is accountable for the actions they can cause, especially for the reputation of American business, government policies, and people around the world. It is a serious business.
Yet what has Trump done for the last four years? What began as bold political statements quickly turned into a “presidential reality show” with him or his staffers tweeting nonstop about many issues, some of them trivial, and furthering the already serious division in the country. He has consistently been willing to use his account to make pronouncements unlike pretty much any other world leader that actually matters. And yet, Twitter for all of her rules, has been exceedingly generous to him, arguably speaking, letting him say for the most part whatever he wants, even if it is potentially incendiary.
There is always a risk in the case of somebody like Trump, that something he says may cause violence. So far, this has not happened. And yes, it is true that many people on the political left have said violent things on Twitter, and they have not been banned, which is of genuine concern not just because of the nature of the comments, but more importantly (and ignored by the political right) means there is a social shift taking place where certain kinds of violence against certain groups is seen as legitimate, and the same violence against one’s political enemies justified. Both are wrong, but the fact is that if Trump was serious about stopping such abuse, he would have addressed both sides, left and right, rather then blaming the left so he could use his own incendiary right-wing rhetoric to enflame tensions against the political left.
What we can say is that after four years of tweeting, and ostensibly strong arguments that the protests were permitted to enter the Capitol, a serious action happened on January 6th, and while there was a small group of questionable leaders, as I have pointed out, a lot of people willingly joined in on the Capitol storming. It doesn’t matter if “the left does this” or not, because it’s still illegal, and while it is wrong for the law to be unequally enforced for the left as it often is for the right, it’s still illegal.
And this is where we are at, with a President whose actions inspired and indirectly encouraged something illegal, something that seriously damages the image and credibility of the US economic and political system around the world, and given the cult-like devotion of many Trump followers, a near willingness to listen to him on anything he says.
It is not unreasonable to see, from this perspective, why Twitter banned Trump, because if they did not, by allowing him to continue tweeting, they could be considered an accessory to his actions, and potentially lose not users and popular opinion, but their entire business and face legal action, regardless of what political party is in office. They had the legal option under Section 230 to do this, they could have banned Trump a long time ago but did not, and given the circumstances, made a calculated business decision that likely was far more reasoned than the cult-like rhetoric of many who attended those protests.
Fifth, the banning of Trump from Twitter does not YET threaten your right to free speech online, and posting your real name with real opinions on social media has been stupid for years.
When Facebook first debuted, people learned fast that putting drunk photos, naked photos, swearing, and just stupid things on it is a bad idea because it will get back to your employer. The same can be said now even more so, because employers look at social media for these things and may fire you because of it. If you do not understand this now, it is a hard truth to accept, but one must not be very bright.
One would think that going to a protest that may be unpopular, one might wear a mask as the political left does in order to deter doxing, or that that one might not advertise one’s political views online, especially if they may be unpopular or are phrased in an unpopular way. Seriously, one cannot just ramble things in public and expect people to think you are sane, serious, or that one can avoid consequences, so how different is this from the Internet? It has been years now that the Internet has existed, so there is no excuse for stupidity.
Given how the political right has been attacked by the left, and how the left is and continues to become more popular, that the right might think to present her message in a more intelligent and clever way, not sacrificing the essence or power of the message but in a more strategic manner. But no, it seems that too many people on the political right do not wish to do this.
But regardless of these things, the fact is that one still has a right to say them freely, and say them online without facing legal repercussions. This is what Section 230 allows. While it is certainly better in most cases to use more tact when discussing such topics, the right remains. Trump’s deletion from Twitter does not mean a change of law- it may mean more enforcement of particular orthodoxies from a corporate standpoint, but as the right has argued for years, it is THEIR BUSINESS and THEIR PLATFORM, and they can choose who they keep or banish.
What matters more is that the principle of what is left of free speech in the country remains, which brings me to my last point, which is that…
Sixth, Trump wanted to destroy the very protections that allow Twitter and Facebook to filter people as much as they allow his own followers to say what they want.
For now Section 230 is safe, but Trump seriously wanted to have 230 removed, arguably to try and prevent criticism of himself and his ideas. I and many others noted how stupid and dangerous this is, since the law is greater than Trump.
Freedom of speech, while it has many problems in a practical sense, is a critical stone on which the foundation of American life has been built, as it includes the right for private individuals and companies to think and act for themselves, particularly when they believe they have a moral responsibility to do so, and the belief that no one else will. One may find particular viewpoints abhorrent, but overall, the preservation of the principle is more important because it is preservation of the fabric of the republic.
Twitter did something a lot of people agreed or disagreed strongly with, but it was within their right to do so. Trump, by comparison, attempted to undermine the law that allows not just Twitter to censor his speech on their platform, but also that allows websites that have different standards of moderation also to exist. Get rid of the law, and it does not bring about ‘fairness’, but mass censorship except for that which is already mass accepted and promoted as the line of social orthodoxy.
The point that I am going to with these observations is that while “shadowbanning” is not good, and censorship largely is also a troublesome thing, Trump’s ban from Twitter is not as bad as it seems, considering the circumstances. What the political right should be more concerned about is about how so many of them seem to be consistently manipulated into accepting questionable ‘leadership’ that results in portraying common people of good will as fools, morons, or dangerous idiots and furthers the social and political agenda of those who they disagree with, as well as with the proliferation of people in their ‘leadership’ who value abhorrent philosophies such as socialism in a nationalist form and eugenics.
Trump had his chance to truly “Make America Great Again”, and his biggest success was probably in his prolific and blustery twitter remarks, which is now gone, and yet the damage he did has opened the way for the political left to do the same, but much more dangerously so and effectively for their views.
Trump’s ban from Twitter is the least of the problems for the right wing.