Banning Trump from social media
Sir, – The recent reaction to US president Donald Trump’s ban from Twitter misses the point. This is not an assault on freedom of speech. In a capitalist system, private companies are free to do business, or not, with whomever they please.
There is no assault on the freedom of Mr Trump or other conservative commentators to say what they are saying. They are conflating their ability to reach their desired audience, which is being constrained by a private company for business reasons, with the ability to speak freely without state repercussion, and they are weaponising this conflation for political gain.
What this episode does highlight is the speed of development of tech companies, their influence on public discourse, and the comparatively slow pace of regulation in keeping up. Let us hope this moment is a watershed in considering the position of these online public squares. Are they platforms or publishers? If the latter, they must take editorial responsibility for the material they publish. If the former, we must consider whether the intense consolidation of market power in an increasingly small number of private companies is sustainable for a democratic future, or if it leaves society vulnerable to further adverse consequences. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In the haste to impeach Donald Trump for all his malfeasance, one must remember that 75 million people voted for him. Many of those voters may have now disavowed him but many have not and remain a simmering bloc of angry Americans. Impeachment will not remove the oxygen fanning that anger, but it will certainly stoke it. However, there was a temporary calm to the chaos in Washington this week when Facebook and Twitter suspended Mr Trump’s social media accounts, which have been his essential tools in reaching out to his base. Permanently banning Mr Trump access to these platforms cuts off the oxygen he needs to communicate with his base. It may just be the punishment he would feel more keenly than impeachment. –Yours, etc,