Twitter Blocking a New York Post Article Was Dumb—but Not Illegal, Censorship, or Election Interference
By definition, Twitter can’t violate the First Amendment rights of the president, members of Congress, or anyone else. First Amendment violations are things the government does to the people, not the other way around. There is nothing in the Constitution prohibiting Twitter from restricting speech on its platform, and it is certainly not “censorship” (which has denoted government suppression of information since the office of censor was created in Ancient Rome to impose public morality).
This shouldn’t need repeating as often as it does these days. But President Donald Trump and those who support him have been working hard to recast censorship as something private companies can do to the most powerful man in the country (see Trump’s executive order on Twitter) while arguing that government should be allowed to restrict these companies’ freedom of speech, conscience, and association.
The latest round of redefinition comes in response to Facebook saying it would “limit distribution” of a New York Post article about Hunter and Joe Biden due to concerns about its veracity. Twitter also temporarily blocked users from sharing the article, saying that it violated its “hacked materials” policy. (Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey later admitted the rollout of this decision was not great, but did not seem to disagree with it overall.)
Twitter is now actively censorsing two of the three branches of the United States federal government. https://t.co/KWwHMelRzF
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) October 14, 2020
It was a bad move on the part of Facebook and Twitter, denying users the opportunity to discuss and perhaps counter the claims in the article among themselves (and likely drawing much more attention to the story than it would have gotten otherwise). Doing so also opened Twitter and Facebook up to allegations of suppressing information critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a time when both companies are putting on a big show of being impartial arbiters of information about the pandemic and the 2020 election (a doomed cause which routinely results in poor calls like this).
But here’s the key thing: they don’t have to be fair arbiters of political information.
Facebook could decide to ban any content critical of Biden. Parler, a social media platform for conservative refugees of Twitter and Facebook, could ban anyone questioning the New York Post story. Twitter could disallow all election content and Reddit can nix any posts about narwhals or sloths.
Any of those choices—no matter how politically biased or how weird—would be within their legal prerogative as private entities, which are under no obligation to treat all content equally, to humor information they find unfit, or to set content standards that make any outside sense at all.
Because of the First Amendment, private platforms and publishers aren’t required to
Article from Latest – Reason.com