Social media companies flex their power now


Designed by Muna Mohamed

Social media companies use their power to censor government officials.

Muna Mohamed, Writer

The U.S. Capitol is a building that possesses great significance. The people Americans have elected from all 50 states come together and make decisions that can forever change the lives of those same Americans. The U.S Capitol is vital to America because it is a symbol of democracy. When that same capitol was attacked on Jan. 6, it was also an attack on everything it represents and symbolizes. On that same day before the attack, both houses of Congress joined together to count the electoral college votes and confirm Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. A mob of Trump supporters stormed the capitol as a last effort to overturn the election results. According to The Hill Second officer dies by suicide after Capitol insurrection, Five people were killed and more than 65 others injured after the insurrection on the United States Capitol by former President Trump’s supporters.” This failed insurrection could have resulted in more police officers dead as well as Congress members. Police officers at the capitol like Eugene Goodman, who helped guide Utah Senator Mitt Romney to safety, are the reason why the insurrection didn’t succeed.

Twitter and other social media platforms response to the failed insurrection

Two days after the riot at the U.S Capitol, Twitter decided to permanently ban President Donald Trump’s account on their platform. On Twitter’s blog post, Permanent suspension of @realDonaldTrump, it says, “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” The team at Twitter came to the conclusion that President Donald Trump having a twitter with over 88 million followers would cause more violence following the failed insurrection that shook America’s Capitol. The tool used by the President to communicate to his supporters and the world was now gone. Twitter went on to ban over 70,000 accounts that were linked to the conspiracy theory QAnon. Other social media platforms like Facebook, Spotify, Twitch, Snapchat, and other services also participated in silencing Trump. According to the Washington Post How Twitter, on the front lines of history, finally decided to ban Trump, it states, “The growing right-wing social media site Parler, which many Trump supporters had flocked to, was itself taken offline by its service providers and removed from the Google and Apple app stores.”  Conservatives and Trump supporters were overwhelmingly affected by the social media censorships.  

After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

— Twitter's blog post

Accounts Twitter banned in the past

Twitter isn’t new to banning accounts that violate its rules and guidelines. According to CTV News Trump joins a short list of banned Twitter accounts, including Nazis, terrorist, former advisors, it says, “Trump’s former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was kicked off Twitter two days after the 2020 election after he suggested in a video that Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded. YouTube and Facebook also removed the video of Bannon making the incendiary comments.” Twitter has banned people for what they do outside their app. In that same article, it says, “Anders Behring Breivik, the far-right Norwegian serial killer who murdered 69 people at a summer camp in 2011, was kicked off Twitter shortly after his account was created, just days before the attack.” Celebrities and infamous Americans have been banned for insulting and making offensive remarks about people on their platform. This shows that Twitter has always banned people who go against their guidelines and that the same treatment will apply to the President of the United States. Twitter has always banned people for who they are, what they say on their app and what happens as a result. Since they banned a sitting President, it shows the power social media platforms have.

Twitter is well within their right to ban whoever they want

Twitter didn’t violate anyone’s constitutional rights. They are a private company and not a government agency. A Cornell Law School defines the first amendment as, “The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition.  It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices.  It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely.” The first amendment was designed to prevent congress or the states from blocking people’s freedom to express themselves. Twitter can use the first amendment right to protect itself, not the other way around. As a private company, they can choose whoever they want to use their platform or not. If they decide to ban people as powerful as the President, they are able to.  

Twitter has terms of the agreement that everyone needs to sign before using their platform.

If anyone goes violates their terms of agreement, they have the right to take any action they see fit. One of their policies that got a lot of people banned is the glorification of violence. In Twitter’s guidelines and policies about glorification of violence, they explain it as, “Glorifying violent acts could inspire others to take part in similar acts of violence. “ Everyone Twitter banned violated their rules, which they agreed to follow. Or Twitter came to the determination that it was a violation. Twitter’s terms of agreement tell its users what is acceptable to them and what is not. As a private company, they are free to choose what they want on their platform.

Twitter used their power more because it was an unprecedented time. Former President Donald Trump refused to concede the election. No modern time president has ever done that before. President Trump continued to say it was a fraudulent election and on Jan. 6, there was a failed insurrection. Since there wasn’t a peaceful transition of power, tensions were high. Twitter had a lot of pressure on them because people felt President Trump could make the situation at the Capital worse. Twitter agreed that President Trump incited the violence that occurred at the Capital. In a blog post about why they banned President Trump they said, “However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things.” Twitter has always used their power to ban people they felt violated their policies. This time it just happened to be the President of the United States.

Social media censorship has always occurred. This time it affected the President of the United States, which showed the immense power major social media companies have. The government can’t pass laws that will violate those companies’ first amendment rights. This can be an opportunity for more people to create platforms that work for everybody, and give a voice to people who were censored. Social media platforms ask their users to agree to their rules and if they determine a violation has occurred they have every right to ban whomever they like.