Springfield political science experts weigh in on Twitter suspending President Trump’s account
‘It does restrain free speech, but it doesn’t violate the free speech clause’
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Twitter’s recent decision to suspend President Trump’s account has raised questions about freedom of speech.
Following the large riot at the nation’s Capitol last week, Twitter announced it would permanently ban President Trump’s account. The tech company announced it was all “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
While some worry this recent move is an example of limiting freedom of speech, Springfield experts said it is perfectly legal.
”I think it does restrain free speech, but it doesn’t violate the free speech clause,” Missouri State University Associate Professor of Political Science Kevin Pybas said.
Local experts said the First Amendment does not apply to tech giants like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
”I think it’s helpful to think of free speech as both a right and a value,” Pybas said. “The First Amendment, the guarantee of free speech is a limitation on government. It limits what government can do in terms of restraining an individual’s speech. But the First Amendment doesn’t pertain to private actors.”
However, the decision does raise a few other concerns about large media corporations, experts said.
”Twitter has every right as a business to limit who is able to have access to their services or not,” Evangel University Associate Professor of Government Rob Bartels said. “What becomes a problem is when they become a monopoly on social media so that it’s hard for others to compete against them. Then they are actually limiting our ability to have free speech.”
While certainly legal, experts said a lack of multiple voices online can be worrisome.
”There seems to be hypocrisy or a lack of consistency,” Pybas said. “I think private entities ought to value free speech.”
The same applies to Senator Josh Hawley’s canceled book deal with Simon and Schuster. This also came after last week’s riots.
”Quite honestly it’s contractual,” Bartels said. “It’s a business proposition here. Two parties are saying we’re going to come together, have an agreement, here’s the contract. We want to write the book, we’ll pay you for it. But I might choose not to publish the book.”
Both incidents could result in legal action, but not pertaining to the First Amendment. Rather, experts said they open a broader discussion of social media’s role in public discourse.
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