Snodgrass: President Trump’s removal from Twitter not only fair, but necessary

On Jan. 8, 2021, Twitter permanently suspended Donald Trump from his @realDonaldTrump account due to past and recent incitement of violence.

Twitter, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

On Jan. 8, 2021, Twitter permanently suspended Donald Trump from his @realDonaldTrump account due to past and recent incitement of violence.

Jillian Snodgrass, Copy Editor

Questions often crop up around the First Amendment of the US Constitution. How far should freedom of religion extend? Where and how may citizens protest? Most relevant at the moment, does the protection of free speech cover any and all speech, specifically on private platforms?

Simply put, no: private platforms have every right to remove speech that violates their company terms of service or policies. Just as employees of a company can be fired for obscene language, so social media services may ban those who break their rules.

A host of social media platforms and other online systems, notably Twitter, recently banned President Trump from using their services. While this caused many to let out a sigh of relief, numerous Trump supporters were outraged, saying that the bans were a violation of freedom of speech. 

The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Congress shall make no law. Those are the key words. The First Amendment only protects Americans from government censorship, not from that of corporations such as Twitter. Social media platforms have terms of service and policies that, if broken, will result in the offender’s account being disabled. Trump violated the platforms’ terms of service, so he was removed, and rightfully so.

One of the offenses Trump committed is the same one he has been impeached for: incitement of violence/insurrection. Twitter’s terms of service state, “…we have a policy against content that glorifies acts of violence in a way that may inspire others to replicate those violent acts and cause real offline harm, or events where members of a protected group were the primary targets or victims.” 

Trump has had a tweet hidden for glorifying violence in the past, but the final straw was his spreading of misinformation about the recent election, which resulted in a new section to Twitter’s rules and policies page: Civic Integrity, essentially an extension of the platform’s pre-existing policy against misleading information.

Some, including former German chancellor Angela Merkel, have expressed concern about the sheer power of social media platforms to ban and disable accounts without secondary review. However, it is necessary for misinformation to be removed from circulation in order to prevent mass indoctrination like that which occurred via Trump’s Twitter account. As long as people follow the platforms’ guidelines, their accounts will not be removed. 

Therefore, no, Trump’s removal from Twitter was not unfair in the slightest. He broke the rules of a private company, and that company has every right to stop him from spreading information that goes against its guidelines. The government may not be allowed to stop him from speaking lies, but his platform can still be taken away. Do you hear that? It’s the sweet sound of President Trump’s silence.