I endorse @remizidae’s comment above, and would like to add the following:
Twitter is a private company and not a state actor. The First Amendment does not apply to decisions about whom it allows to use its platform.Too many smart people are conflating the rights and responsibilities of state actors with those of private companies.
Twitter is a private company and not a state actor. The First Amendment does not apply to decisions about whom it allows to use its platform.
Too many smart people are conflating the rights and responsibilities of state actors with those of private companies.
This is legally relevant but morally irrelevant. The distinction between public and private moderation is not due to some fundamental, ontological difference between government and private oppression, but rather because in the conditions under which the 1st Amendment was originally written, the state was the only actor who could effectively suppress speech across the whole spectrum of society. But this is not the case today! Today, large online platforms are able to suppress speech that they disapprove of at an international scale. Even if “only 22% of Americans have a Twitter account”, that still gives them a degree of influence comparable to that of the state, and this concern only gets greater if we realise that adding in a few other common social networks brings coverage to close to 100% and all of these platforms have similar moderation attitudes, which results in a homogeneity of “acceptable discourse” which freedom of speech is supposed to avoid. If we actually value freedom of speech as an actual moral principle and not merely as a legal technicality, then we should absolutely be concerned about censorial powers wielded by private companies.
This strikes me as a weak slippery slope argument. There is no “homogeneity of acceptable discourse” on Twitter. Even after Trump’s ban, far-right wing politicians such as Hawley and Boebart still use the platform. He wasn’t removed for ideological reasons. He was banned because he was actively inciting a violent insurrection and aspired to continue to incite such an insurrection.