The first president who got blocked
The ban of Donald Trump’s Twitter account reignited the debate about free speech on social media platforms - if it ever really subsided in the first place. What was Twitter's justification for its actions, and how did the individual actors within the discourse react to this decision?
56,571 tweets - that's how long Twitter let the 45th President of the United States continue tweeting. Now, due to numerous violations of community guidelines that occurred within a very short period of time, the company has decided to suspend Donald Trump's private account. However, the official government accounts @POTUS and @WhiteHouse will remain active.
Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram also opted for a temporary block of his Social Media accounts. The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, stated that the risk of allowing the president to continue accessing the platform was simply too great, resulting in a suspension.
Twitter stated that Donald Trump's tweets and the account's general activity within the past few weeks must be put within the context of the storming of the Capitol and the general political situation in the United States, and can be understood by individual groups as a call for violent assault, which is considered a violation of the platform's policies.
An attack on free speech or an important action for safety of human lives?
Donald Trump sees this block as an attack on free speech: "Twitter continues to impose restrictions on free speech with every action they take, and tonight Twitter, the Democrats, and the radical left cooperated to remove my account from this platform and mute me."
The opinions of various human rights organizations and activists differ greatly from that statement. They have been criticizing social media platforms for their lax handling of community policy violations and called for tougher crackdowns on homophobic, transphobic, racist and sexist speech for years now. As a result, the cross-platform blocks have largely been well received.
At the end of the day, the question regarding the extent to which media companies are allowed to restrict the expressions of individuals still stands. This is partly a matter of conscience, particularly in regards to the different definitions of the term 'freedom of expression'. However, if users enter into a contract with a private company while accepting its terms and conditions, in which the relevant do's and don'ts are clearly listed, they must expect censorship of inappropriate content.
Twitter and Co. are not official news services. Despite their size, they are companies similar to a medium-sized bakery, which also has the right to fire people for their private statements should they violate the company's philosophy. They are allowed to act according to their own guidelines. The consequences are borne by the users - a risk that everyone should be aware of, whether they are private individuals or the President of the United States of America.