I saw a Facebook representative defend Trump’s ban off of Twitter and it made me think, since the time Trump has been banned off of Twitter what has changed? What stayed the same? And what kind of precedent did his ban set? With that in mind, I’ll set off on the two year retrospective.
On January 7, 2021 Trump sent off two tweets that would eventually get his account banned. “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” and “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
Twitter banned Trump promptly after citing a breach of its terms of service, not glorifying violence: “These two Tweets must be read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President’s statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent weeks.”
Twitter’s given reason for the ban, while accepted by the majority of users, still angered others. Some people criticized Twitter’s decision calling it censorship and declaring that it set a bad precedent for the site. Social media sites, while being private businesses, are one of the primary ways people receive their news and have a lot of power in shaping the opinions of the population. For some it was concerning that one of the biggest political figures on the planet could be removed from the conversation.
That’s not to say that a lot of the criticism wasn’t in bad faith, however. Many of the people who criticized the policy, were also the same who would staunchly protect a businesses right to reserve service from anyone they pleased.
At the same time, Twitter is still a private corporation. As such, they have the right to ban any user for pretty much any reason (which is actually kind of concerning). And the policy seems to have been a net gain overall. Without the public platform of Twitter, Trump has had a lot less power to invigorate his followers and can’t nearly as effectively spread election denialism.
Alongside the fact that he is no longer president, Trump’s ban really does lessen his influence. There has overall been a decrease in inflammatory speech that’s accessible to the public at large. Parler is a good example of this. In response to the bans, right wingers created their own social media page where the bigotry was mask off and not taken seriously.
Overall, the ban was probably for the best. Despite the dangerous precedent set by the action, it resulted in more good than bad. However in the future we should all be cautious of any authorial action by Twitter.