Should social media sites be allowed to suspend their users?

President Trump was controversially banned or suspended from various social media platforms on Jan. 8.

Photo courtesy of TMZ

President Trump was controversially banned or suspended from various social media platforms on Jan. 8.


by James Birle

Social media sites were completely justified in banning former President Donald Trump and suspending many other right-wing political figures; these actions are not just legally justified, but they also do not indicate any infringement of First Amendment rights

The official reasoning behind these suspensions was to negate the threat of more incitement of violence and to combat the spread of misinformation online. This is not a one-time thing for Trump, as he has been abusing his power to communicate directly to the people through online media since before his presidency even began. From the onset of his candidacy, he has spread conspiracy theories and hate speech on social media which has had direct correlations to real-life events, like the Charlottesville riots in 2017 and the Capitol riots on Jan. 6.

Not only do private companies like Twitter and Facebook have terms of service that Trump and many other right-wingers often violate by spreading misinformation and hate speech, but in a more constitutional examination of their rhetoric, it is clear that their words are not protected by the First Amendment. As the cliche goes, in America, you cannot scream “fire” in a crowded theatre to intentionally cause a panic. In the same way, you cannot spread lies about American voter fraud that undermines American democracy, despite an abundance of evidence declaring the contrary, in order to initiate an overthrow of the government. Americans have free speech, but words have consequences, and that applies to every citizen, including Trump.

Twitter and Facebook are not just exercising their own powers under the Constitution as free-market enterprises, but they’re also providing a great service to the American people in muzzling Trump and his biggest supporters. Censoring Trump has proven to be successful in deterring misinformation, with the Washington Post reporting that misinformation was down 73 percent following the suspension of Trump’s accounts and his closest allies’ accounts.

There is no denying that social media sites have a lot of power politically. Facebook and Twitter have long been a platform for Trump and his supporters to convene, engage in political discussions and spread ideas. From the onset of his candidacy for president, Trump was active on social media sites like Twitter, building his initial political following through his hatred for then-President Barack Obama in 2012.

Essentially, Trump has built his entire online identity through spreading conspiracies from something as seemingly harmless as declaring Obama was born in Kenya to outrageous movements like declaring that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are murderers. This phenomenon has seen the rise of other politicians on social media sites like Coloradan Representative Lauren Boebert, who is now notorious for supporting the siege on the Capitol and is currently being investigated for helping the insurrectionists plan it.

Twitter and other sites are just now fixing the problems that they allowed to fester for almost a full decade by silencing those who are a direct threat to American democracy. This process should have started a lot sooner, with fact checks deployed on Trump and his closest allies back in 2012. If that had been the case, we could have avoided what will forever be known as four years of disaster.


by Noah Metz

As much as former President Donald Trump broke Twitter’s terms of service, and may have broken laws, his Twitter ban speaks directly to the issue of free speech.

Fact: Trump incited violence and broke Twitter’s terms of service. Fact: Twitter has the right to ban anyone from its platform for inciting violence because it is a private company. Fact: Twitter also has the right to ban Trump for breaking their terms of service. Just as the Supreme Court ruled a private Colorado bakery can refuse service to a gay couple, Twitter can refuse service to Trump. These are the facts, and these are undisputed.

Also a fact: Louis Farrakhan is on Twitter. Farrakhan is the leader of the Nation of Islam, a hate group as designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Farrakhhan has tweeted and said many hateful things. For example, Farrakhan said in a 2018 speech, “God did not create man to lay with man. But you are being chemically programmed against your nature, you don’t know it.” Furthermore, Farrakhan compared Jews to insects when he tweeted, “I’m not an anti-Semite, I’m anti-termite.” Although this tweet was taken down, Farrakhan’s Twitter account still stands despite these and other antisemitic and homophobic comments.

You know who else’s Twitter account still stands? China’s U.S. embassy, who recently tweeted about sterilizing Uygur Muslim women, saying, “Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines. They are more confident and independent.” If a country’s official social media account can boast about sterilizing women and not get banned, then I do not know who should be banned. Again, this tweet was taken down, but the account, and the Islamophobia it stands for, still exists.

Or what about Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who tweeted a call for genocide of Israelis? This is still a violent call to destroy another country and the people living in it. Furthermore, Khomeini has engaged in Holocaust denial, going as far as to host a Holocaust denial cartoon competition. Holocaust denial and calls for violence violate the Twitter terms of service, yet his account still stands. 

I can go on and on about different people who have posted racist tweets and still have their Twitter accounts. But honestly, (no matter your opinion on Trump himself) are we really banning the former president of the United States without banning the authoritarian governments of China and Iran, who have called for violence countless times on Twitter? 

The point is, Twitter should not ban people from using its platform unless they ban everyone who incites violence. While banning people may not technically violate the First Amendment, it does go against everything Twitter says it stands for as a marketplace for the global free exchange of ideas.

Do you think it was right for these sites to remove users from their platforms?

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