President Trump’s ban from social media platforms: does it violate freedom of speech?

National News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After President Donald Trump was banned from various social media platforms last week, some question if it is a violation of the president’s freedom of speech.

A Virginia Commonwealth University professor said in this case, the First Amendment does not apply.

“Account suspended.”

That is the message that appears when you search President Trump’s Twitter account.

Following the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the social media platform permanently suspended the president’s account, citing violations of the Twitter Rules, including the Glorification of Violence policy.

“We have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said. 

President Trump has also been suspended indefinitely from Facebook and Instagram for similar reasons.

Locally, Facebook has temporarily disabled Sen. Amanda Chase’s page.

Dr. John Aughenbaugh, an assistant professor in VCU’s Political Science Department, said terms and conditions like these are contractual agreements.

“These social media platforms all have pretty standard, if you will, language, that says, ‘You have to abide by the behavioral rules that we deem appropriate.’ If you do not, they reserve, if you will, the authority to remove you,” Aughenbaugh explained.

Some, including the president himself, suggest this is an infringement on the First Amendment, which protects the freedom of speech among other rights.

However, Aughenbaugh explained the First Amendment does not apply to private companies like Twitter and Facebook.

“The First Amendment applies to government behavior, and it’s not the government that is banning President Trump from Twitter. It’s not the government that is temporarily suspending State Senator Chase from Facebook. It is those private sector companies who own those social media platforms,” he said.

After President Trump was kicked off these platforms, some expected him to reach his followers via the platform Parler, which is favored by conservatives.

However, Parler has since been booted off the Internet after Google, Apple and Amazon removed it from their platforms, saying it allowed posts that could incite ongoing violence.

Parler’s CEO John Matze has spoken out, calling it “a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the marketplace.”

Augenbaugh said this, too, is allowed under the First Amendment.

“It’s not the government that is forcing Amazon, Apple, Google to remove Parler. It is those individual companies with those platforms that are making, if you will, a business decision,” Aughenbaugh said.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Parler has since filed a lawsuit against Amazon Web Services. Parler is alleging that Amazon kicked the platform off its cloud servers for political and anti-competitive reasons. The social platform is also alleging a breach of contract.

Following his ban from Twitter, President Trump released a statement Friday teasing a possible new platform.

In that statement, Trump said, “We’ve been negotiating with various other sites, and will have a big announcement soon, while we also look at the possibilities of building our own platform in the near future.”

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