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Is it right for Trump to threaten social media companies for censoring conservative views?

Is it right for Trump to threaten social media companies for censoring conservative views?
WRITTEN BY
05/28/20
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Bertie (Yes)

It's entirely appropriate to consider regulating Twitter and other social media companies over the stifling of conservative viewpoints. For too long, social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have hidden behind the 'as an online platform, we are not a publisher' mantra--finagled from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act [1]--while continuing to throttle those who are right of center. 

As social media's dominance has grown, so has its level of influence over the opinions held by the general population. Many people don't bother to ask simple questions such as 'does this even make sense?' before blindly commenting on or re-posting an inflammatory statement or article posted by someone else [2,3]. This tendency is only exacerbated when celebrities pile on and further spread the message. Given that the majority of news media leans left, either explicitly or implicitly, a one-sided echo-chamber is perpetuated, especially when dissenting voices (on the right) are put in the corner for 'being abusive [4].' 

Just this week, for the first time, Twitter used its own (non-third-party) fact-check warning on a Trump tweet regarding mail-in ballots [5,6]. This action disregards and obscures two key points: evidence supports that mail-in ballots would encourage fraud [7,8], and Twitter does not seem to apply its own rule evenly [9]. Case in point, allowing China to tweet fallacies about the US and the coronavirus [10], employees admitting on video that they are 'anti-Trump' [11], and Twitter's own 'censor czar's' past tweets [12]


Tyler (No)

Donald Trump is utterly misguided in his attempt to deface numerous social media platforms. 

Trump claimed that sites like Twitter are 'interfering in the 2020 election' by adding a fact-check annotation on his recent tweets [1]. He later expressed his plans to reprimand and possibly shut down these platforms [2]. However, social media sites have the right to promote and censor whom they please because they are the owners and creators of the platforms distributing the information. Further, by planning to use his political leverage to shield him from possible criticism, Trump is abusing his power. While Trump claims that Twitter's censorship violates the right to free speech, a 2018 Court of Appeals case proved that the First Amendment 'only prohibits governmental abridgment of speech [3].' By fact-checking Trump's prediction of voter fraud in the 2020 election, Twitter is identifying information that can potentially deceive its users. 

Trump revealed that Republicans feel 'silenced' by the way social media platforms have been censoring conservative viewpoints [4]. Just because one's views can generally be categorized as 'conservative' does not remove the possibility that they may also be hate speech. In 2019, Trump suggested that several minority Democrat congresswomen return to work in 'the broken and crime-infested places from which they came,' rather than worrying about the needs of the United States [5]. Trump's promotion of scripted Muslim 'terrorist' attacks on his Twitter account are another example of the leader instigating tension among his followers [6].

Trump should not be spewing prejudice and false information, and his efforts to shut down social media platforms for his political gain will be proven unconstitutional.

Fact Box

  • U.S. Presidents have a long history of disagreeing with the media; most notably, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle [1].”
  • During his tenure, President Nixon had acquired a list of so-called “press enemies” whom he targeted and audited [2]. 
  • President Clinton election strategist, Dick Morris, predicted the power that the online world would have in politics by declaring, “...the Internet will be the Congress. The Internet will be the Parliament. The Internet will be the election [3]...” 
  • A website called factba.se tracks and catalogs every tweet that President Trump sends out [4].  
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