Big Tech flexed its muscles and demonstrated the true extent of its power earlier this week as President Donald Trump was suspended from his Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts indefinitely. Although Donald Trump is a divisive figure who many seem to detest or adore you should all be worried about these companies blatantly blacklisting the man who is supposedly deemed “The most powerful person on the planet.” No matter where you align politically, this should concern you.
The controversial personality used Twitter particularly as a way to spread his message, respond to critics and inform supporters of events, statistics or polls. It was a platform he could use to talk directly to his supporters. Issues began to arise in the following months and years however after Trump’s victory. Commentators or individuals that leaned conservative began getting censored, suspended, or banned for voicing an unpopular opinion. Parler, an alternative platform that was only a few years old, was primarily occupied and used by conservatives. Parlerwas recently removed from the app store. Parler shortly after was shutdown. Very few people saw this rise of power amongst social media companies when they first began.
The world however has changed and progressed rapidly over the past 15 years and over that time period, we’ve seen startup social media companies transform from exciting new projects to global conglomerates that have the power to change and manipulate public opinion or discourse.
Under the guise of being a private company, social media platforms have enjoyed unmatched legal protection and the ability to execute selective censorship under section 230. This has allowed Mark Zuckerburg and Jack Dorsey the CEO’s of Facebook and Twitter to freely silence users for voicing a political opinion they disagree with while knowing they don’t have to worry as they will never face any sort of legal repercussions so long as Section 230 remains a law in the United States.
What exactly is section 230?
According to the short law, it states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." 1 This law allows those who are big names on the internet to get away with partisan censorship as they can claim they are publishers and not an open forum.
Despite ever-growing amounts of gridlock in Washington D.C between the American left and right, repealing section 230 seems to be something that both major parties want to be scraped or repealed, demonstrating a rare case of bipartisanship in the nation’s capital. Although President Trump has been the one pushing for a considerable amount of time, Democrats have largely avoided claims of censorship by the tech companies, Section 230 has become a rare point of unification for political leaders from both parties who feel the industry has gotten too powerful and outgrown the need for its protection. In an interview with The New York Times editorial board published earlier this year, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden said Section 230 “immediately should be revoked” for tech platforms including Facebook, which he said, “is propagating falsehoods they know to be false.” 2
We are a stone’s toss away from anyone being de-platformed or dehumanized for having the wrong political opinion. There are some public figures in the US who have voiced unpopular opinions that have been banned from numerous platforms and it is concerning that there are people celebrating the President’s removal and censorship when they could very well be next.