I’ve seen many complaints in the last few weeks from conservative tweeters that to the it appears that Twitter is actively suppressing their and others viewpoints. They show screen grabs in some cases where they are not allowed to see certain tweets, and some prominent conservatives have spoken out that some of their tweets are never seen by their followers.
Many have sent questions to Twitter itself inquiring whether the company is actively suppressing tweets from conservatives. None that I am aware of have recieved a response.
Some of the tweets I see from conservatives refer to their free speech being impeded. I’ve written about free speech in the past but I’ll take aa moment to summarize what I wrote on this subject years ago.
Privately held companies are not subject to the First Amendment. The First Amendment’s prohibition is about the government making any law that would prevent anyone from freely expressing their opinion. Exceptions to that would be if someone purposefully slandered, or libeled another person. But what the framers were really referring to is people criticizing the government.
We know that there are many countries outside the United States where criticism of the government is a crime. I’ll bet you can name several off the top of your head. Here, however, it is a right secured in writing.
Twitter, in the recent past, have actually deleted accounts from individuals and groups that not only violate their (very subjective) standards, but those they believe are harmful to the Twitter community as a whole. They actively ban accounts that support violent jihad, also accounts from neo-Nazi groups that advocate hate, and sometimes violence, against others due to their race, religion, and ehnicty. I don’t think anyone I know objects to these bans.
Can they, however block speech from groups just because they have a particular political or social view on society? The simple answer is “No”, they cannot do that. They can censor individual content they believe others might find offensive, graphic content being an example, but to suppress tweets they dislike because of those people’s political or social views would not be allowed. If they applied the same standards to all political views, of course there would be no problem. But to pick out a single group for censorship could land them in legal trouble.
The issue however would not be Free Speech, as I said earlier, they have no obligation to guarantee anyone’s free speech. Their problem would be in discrimination of one group over others.
Consider if Twitter decided that tweets from LGBT supporters and groups were not acceptable on its platform. The hue and cry would be deafening. Lawsuits might become innumerable, and those individuals and groups would be correct.
The same would exist for political opinions. Suppressing conservative-only, or liberal-only speech, would land them in a large vat of very hot water. But again, it would be a discrimation issue.
I follow many conservatives on Twitter. I also follow quite a number of liberals. I like to read opposing viewpoints. I think it broadens my knowledge and informs any opinions I may hold. I have not seen any liberals complaining about being censored, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.
As I mentioned, Twitters standards are very subjective and could be applied to anyone at anytime for any reason. In order to determine whether people with a particular viewpoint are being singled out for censorship, it’s going to take some hard data.
I haven’t seen any yet. If you have some, please share it with the rest of us.