Donald Trump, without citing any evidence, renewed his attack on “social media giants,” tweeting that tech companies are “silencing millions of people.”
Trump made the claim Friday morning on Twitter, his preferred social-media platform. He also singled out one of his favored media targets, CNN.
Social Media Giants are silencing millions of people. Can’t do this even if it means we must continue to hear Fake News like CNN, whose ratings have suffered gravely. People have to figure out what is real, and what is not, without censorship!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2018
Trump last week posited that social platforms are “discriminating against” Republican and conservative voices, but “we won’t let that happen.”
As private-sector entities, companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter are fully within their rights to enforce conduct and content guidelines about what’s allowed on their platforms. There’s no legal framework under which the U.S. government can compel companies to host material deemed hateful speech or otherwise inappropriate.
The U.S. president apparently has been stirred to call out so-called censorship by the likes of Facebook and Twitter after Silicon Valley companies have taken action to ban or otherwise penalize far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars outlet.
YouTube, Facebook, Spotify and others have removed content from or disabled accounts run by Jones and Infowars. Twitter, which has been criticized for not taking action against the hate-mongering group, last week suspended Jones and Infowars from tweeting for a seven-day period. As of Thursday (Aug. 23), both Infowars and Jones resumed posting to Twitter.
In recent weeks, Jones has issued public appeals to Trump to step in to fight the tech firms’ “deplatforming” of Infowars and others of its ilk. In fact, Jones’ temporary Twitter ban was precipitated by a tweet saying “Trump Must Take Action Against Web Censorship” that included a link to a video in which Jones told his followers they “need to have their battle rifles and everything ready at their bedsides” to attack left-wing “traitors.”
Trump himself has posted tweets that violate Twitter’s terms of service, namely its prohibition against violent threats and bullying. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and the company have said that the company’s policy takes into account newsworthiness and the public interest in explaining why it hasn’t taken action to suspend or ban Trump from the platform. Separately, in March, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Trump’s blocking of individual accounts on Twitter are unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, Trump’s attacks on social-media companies seem to be part of an attempt to deflect attention from the current legal problems the president is entangled in. Trump and the White House are currently dealing with the aftermath of the guilty plea of Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen to eight felony counts as well as the conviction of former campaign manager Paul Manfort on eight counts of fraud charges.