The sound of a tweet the past 4 years has invoked anxiety. A singular tweet by Former President Donald Trump had the power to cause a wildfire on social media and news networks alike. That was the unique power of Trump—his command of social media gave him access to a pocket of power no previous president has had. However, it was this very grasp over social media that brought Trump to clash with tech companies, specifically those in charge of social media platforms. We live in an age of information which means we also live in an age of disinformation. Trump used his platform many times to spread disinformation as more than half of Trump’s tweets since November 3rd were flagged as misleading. The banning of Trump on Twitter was completely justified after he repeatedly violated Twitter’s terms of service and used rhetoric that endangered public safety. In turn, there needs to be accountability for both the platform and the user.
The implications of Twitter banning Trump are positive as it prevents him from spreading lies, diminishing our democracy, and invoking more chaos. The concept of public safety was thrown out of the window with Trump’s tweets full of false claims like “stop the steal.” On January 6th, all of his blatantly false and inflammatory rhetoric sparked the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The power of Trump’s social presence alongside his rallies allowed for the mobilization and incitement of the insurrection by domestic terrorists. The charges of impeachment speak to the fact that Trump has and continues to endanger the safety of the entire populace. By providing a platform for such dangerous rhetoric can be devastating. Just look at the COVID-19 case and death numbers. Trump downplayed the pandemic from its inception to now, claiming that COVID-19 was not as deadly as the flu. This promoted a partisan division in regards to public health measures that are in place to protect everyone.
Twitter’s decision to ban Trump was also justified because his precarious and dangerous tweets were in direct violation of Twitter’s terms of service. If we take the public safety context out of the picture, Trump’s tweets simply violated the contract he agreed to, the terms of service, when he opened his account. Given his prominence and position as president, he was given a lot of leeway with the content of his tweets. Repeated warnings did not stop him though. He broke a variety of Twitter rules such as the Civic Integrity Policy, rules against “glorifying violence”, and rules regarding ‘“sharing misleading and harmful” information about COVID-19.’” Additionally, Trump is a private citizen now that he is out of office, which means he should be exempt from any special treatment. The permanent ban is completely justified as Twitter is a private corporation that has the full authority to implement its own terms and conditions.
Another reason Twitter is justified in banning Trump is that it falls within the bounds of how businesses may operate in a free market. There is a difference between regulating business practices and how corporations run their businesses. This is a very important distinction because the former is something the government and the people have a say in. Regulating business practices is a hot seat issue in Congress and the United States as there is clearly a monopoly held by big tech companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, etc. However, the latter point regarding running a business is one that should be devoid of government interference. A company like Twitter should be able to run its course within the bounds of the law; Trump’s permanent ban is a crystal clear example of Twitter running its business.
If we want to hold both individuals like Trump and big tech companies like Twitter accountable, there needs to be more conversation around the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which already has bipartisan support. This would provide a more holistic approach to accountability in which tech companies like Twitter would also be held liable for the content and practices on their platforms. Hopefully, this move will keep individuals like Trump in check and prevent a repeat of the cries that we are facing today.