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Power of social media on display after platforms ban President Trump

First Amendment not violated by bans
Posted at 6:32 PM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 15:19:45-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — For years, President Donald Trump has used Twitter as his soapbox, garnering a large online following, building a passionate fan base like no president before.

After last week’s deadly riots at the capitol, Twitter accused the president of using his account to incite violence, a violation of their terms of service. His account was permanently suspended, with other social media platforms following suit.

While this raises questions about censorship and the power social media companies hold, these suspensions are not First Amendment violations.

“What it says is that the government cannot abridge that speech. When you sign up for a private company service like Twitter or Facebook, you are agreeing to their terms of service. It says ‘I will use this social media app in accordance with your policies and if I violate those policies I am forfeiting my right to be on that app and use it,” said Sam Petto with the ACLU of Nebraska.

Petto adds suspensions are nothing new, but ignite a conversation about when the rules are enforced and if the president’s recent suspensions are out of political convenience.

“Platforms that I don’t believe he was even on have said that he won’t be able to be active, like Pinterest. So anyone hoping for President Trump’s fall decorating tips are going to miss out,” said Petto.

Suspensions on social media impact more than just big political figures. Those in marginalized communities, or local activists who have limited platforms, often see this kind of action from social media companies.

While Petto says the power these platforms hold should not go unchecked, their work towards moderating false or threatening information is overdue.

UNO communications professor Dr. Chris Allen agrees.

“They are restricting messages but they have the right to do that and in many cases, they have a responsibility to do that,” Dr. Allen said.

The spread of misinformation has undoubtedly bred division in the country.

“There is confusion and there will continue to be confusion. And the best thing that our media can do is continue to tell the truth, but even then, there are people who will not believe that it’s the truth,” Dr. Allen said.

According to a poll from PBS Newshour, NPR and Marist, half of Americans believe President Donald Trump should be allowed back on the platforms he was banned from once his presidency ends.

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