Most of us have long ago said that we believe that Facebook and Twitter (and other Social Media platforms) have the “right” to ban whomever they please, because, “it’s not a First Amendment issue.” In fact, even Trump’s legal team seems to agree with this position.
But solely for the purpose of careful consideration of the ENTIRE issue, let us consider a few things that haven’t gotten much discussion, at least as far as I can find.
Social Media platforms, along with media websites and other types of socially interactive online sites are exempt under section 230 of USC §47 from being held liable for comments (speech) which is shared on the sites in the form of comments and/or posts. The platforms cannot be held legally or financially liable for the users’ inputs, including, by the by, “Main Stream Media” sites such as newspaper comment sections.
Now, again, let us be clear, the Platforms themselves are not the government. I believe that we all agree that given that circumstance, they are free to allow or disallow participation as they see fit. So, banning Alex Jones or Louis Farrakhan or shadow banning Devin’s Cow might be a bad business plan and result in customer blowback, but it is allowable. whether or not they should do it is another matter.
But… let us consider some things here:
USC §47 section 230 is a law, passed by Congress which exempts Social Media and Web Sites from being held liable for the end user comments (speech).
Two leading Congress Members* (and One Cow**) have recently publically declared that if the platforms will not eliminate speech which they find objectionable they will push for the Congress to pass a law which will repeal section 230 of USC §47, thus removing the exemption for Facebook, Twitter, and other web platforms which allow users to participate in the form of comments and/or posts, and making them responsible for the potential fallout from such comments and/or posts.
Did you hear what I said? Congress shall pass a law which causes the free speech of commenter’s to be “chilled” by punishing the platforms which allow it for whatever the commenters may say or presumably do.
How is that NOT a 1st Amendment issue?