Washington: The social media giant has crossed the threshold in banning US President Donald Trump and a range of supporters-now facing the confusion of defining their efforts to promote democracy and freedom of speech while maintaining political neutrality.
After the unprecedented violence in the seat of Congress, Trump was banned for inciting the rioters — on platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google-owned YouTube and Snapchat. The alternative network Parler, which drew many Trump backers, was forced offline by Amazon’s web services unit.
The bans broke new ground for internet firms but also shattered the longstanding notion that they are simply neutral platforms open for all to express any views.
“Banning Donald Trump was a crossing of a Rubicon for social media firms, and they can’t go back,” said Samuel Woolley, a professor and researcher with the University of Texas Center for Media Engagement.
“Up to now their biggest goal was to promote free speech, but recent events have shown they can no longer do this.”
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defended Trump’s ban last week, acknowledging that the ban stemmed from “our failure to promote a healthy conversation” and that “this set a precedent , I feel dangerous: individuals or companies have the power to partly ban global public dialogues.”
Javier Pallero, policy director of the digital rights non-profit organization Access Now, said that Trump’s ban may be just the beginning of social media companies’ response to dangerous content, including dangerous content from political leaders.
“The companies have reacted to calls for violence by the president in the United States, and that’s a good call. But they have failed in other areas like Myanmar,” where social media has been used to carry out persecution, Pallero said.