Donald Trump has come out with the outline of what he calls his response to Twitter labeling a couple of his posts. And while I would say he does have a First Amendment right to express his views, there isn’t anything that says that right is valid when it comes to a corporate entity such as Facebook, Alphabet Google, or Twitter. On this front, sorry to say, but I feel Trump is wrong.
If I went on Twitter and started calling say, Nancy Pelosi all of the names in the book, it would be reasonable, unless it was true and I could prove it, that the posts would be taken down, or at the very least “labeled”. My freedom of speech ends when I deal with a corporation on their turf. Case in point: AAA the insurance and emergency road service people have just sent out an email here that says they aren’t accepting cash for a while during the pandemic. Now, there’s nothing anywhere that says any business HAS to accept cash. There is no federal mandate that says they have to accept cash.
Likewise, if you are going to a certain business, and they say that you must wear a banana costume in order to enter their establishment, or you will not be served… that’s the rule. And likewise, if you are an employee at a business, you are not guaranteed “Freedom of Speech” at that business. Neither are you guaranteed “Freedom of Speech” if you enter that business, or use that business.
Donald Trump’s attempt to get Twitter to allow him to say whatever he wants or he’s going to impose a block on the immunity of social media sites to censor or block posts that aren’t obscene, or violent is off base. He’s going to basically impose lifting what’s known as Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Bill, that was signed into law by Bill Clinton. The bill is probably best known for opening up the public airwaves to corporate ownership. Until then, a company could only own seven AM radio stations, seven FM radio stations, and seven television stations. Section 230 gives social media outlets immunity from prosecution when people other than themselves post objectionable material on their site. Trump wants to do away with Section 230 in this regard.
It’s going to cause a firestorm of legal controversies to say the least. But in the end, businesses have the right to issue rules to the public that will be using their businesses. That does include social media sites being able to either censor material it deems offensive, or attach labels, such as “fact-checking” notices. If it is clearly stated in their terms of service, they have the right to do so. If you as a consumer don’t want to follow that or deem it objectionable, you don’t have to use their service.
And that is the issue going forward. Is it right for these social media giants to play censor and to what extent? Or is it fair game for anyone to say anything they want? Obviously, the Supreme Court will get their chance to weigh in on this in the future. But for now, it’s pretty much Donald Trump screaming foul because a liberal social media site is trying to blunt the message he’s been using as a bully-pulpit since taking office.
Personally, the Telecommunications Bill of 1996 was passed by Congress, and they are the ones that have the ability to change it, not the president. We’ve seen this happen before. A president cannot unilaterally void a bill or change a bill. He can, however, if the bill gives an Executive Branch department the right to regulate a situation, decide to change the regulations surrounding the bill (as was the case with the Individual Mandate in Obamacare). But to change a law needs Congressional approval.
And somehow, in this current environment, I doubt Donald Trump is going to get that!
Carry on world…you’re dismissed!