Social media sites’ “Trump Ban” remove a major source of misinformation

Madison Dietrich, In-Depth Editor

Egregious typos and all capitalized threats don’t normally appear on a president’s social media page. Then again, very little was normal about former President Donald Trump’s tenure. Following the recent attack on the Capitol, some people believe that his speech before the event as well as rhetoric throughout his term was to blame. Social media platforms seemingly agree, with Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitch banning Trump and others restricting content related to him.

At his rally before the Capitol riot took place, Trump told his supporters, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” He later stated, “We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. […] And we’re going to the Capitol.”

With the exception of directly telling rally attendees to stage a riot, Trump could not have made a statement more encouraging of violence against our democratic system. This was just the cherry on top of years of lies and dangerous rhetoric coming from a sitting president. And finally, he was banned.

This necessary step has already proven beneficial, with Zignal Labs reporting that misinformation online decreased by 73% following Trump’s social media bans. Although sharing fictional information is always damaging, Trump doing so was especially dangerous. On Twitter, he repeatedly stated that he won the election, despite Joe Biden having received more than 7,000,000 votes more than him. His tweets that he “WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!” and that Biden “only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA,” as well as a slew of other factually incorrect information led his supporters to reject the outcome of the election. To have a sitting president sow doubt in our democratic system in this way is completely outrageous.

Despite the clear need for action, some of Trump’s closest allies are still upset about Trump’s ban. “We are living Orwell’s 1984. Free-speech no longer exists in America. It died with big tech and what’s left is only there for a chosen few,” his oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s former Press Secretary, also spoke out, tweeting, “The radical left and their big tech allies cannot marginalize, censor, or silence the American people. This is not China, this is [the] United States of America, and we are a free country.” 

Not only are Trump and his supporters denouncing the social media sites that they themselves are using, but they don’t seem to understand how the First Amendment works. Mary Anne Franks, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, responded that “[The First Amendment] doesn’t give anyone the right to a particular platform, publisher or audience; in fact, it protects the right of private entities to choose what they want to say or hear.” Because these social media sites are companies that can control their own platforms, they are not violating the First Amendment.

In fact, some Republicans’ arguments that social media sites can’t ban Trump aren’t even valid using their own reasoning. These Republicans quickly jumped to support the Colorado baker who denied making a wedding cake for a gay couple, stating that businesses have the right to serve whomever they please. By this logic, social media sites should be able to moderate conversations and block users as they feel necessary. Clearly these pro-business ideals only apply to Trump and some of his supporters when they’re favorable to their argument.

However people twist the Constitution to support the former president, one thing is certain: Trump has been banned, and with him, a major source of misinformation.