“No user, regardless of their job, wealth or stature should be exempt from abiding by Twitter’s user agreement, not even the President of the United States.”
That’s Senator Kamala Harris’s argument for banning President Donald Trump from Twitter. The junior U.S. senator from California made this strange demand a core part of her foundering presidential campaign this month. She sent a letter to Twitter and demanded other Democrats support her request at the last presidential primary debate.
The desperate presidential hopeful isn’t the first to call for a Trump-free Twitter, but she is the most powerful person so far to demand it.
Harris claims Trump violated Twitter’s terms of service with his criticism of pro-impeachment lawmakers, and noting his worry that impeachment would cause a “civil war-like fracture.” Harris claims such tweets incite violence and alerted Twitter. Her alleged concern is clearly nonsense, but this is typical of leftist rhetoric. Conservative speech, when it chafes leftists, is always painted as dangerous to public order and as something that must be stamped out by the tech giants.
Harris’s censorship demand reveals the dire threat Democrats pose to online speech. Internet freedom may be gone for good if they win back the White House.
The California senator arguably is the most aggressive Democrat on this topic. In a speech to the Detroit NAACP earlier this year, she said the government should punish Big Tech for failing to control “hate speech.”
“We will hold social media platforms responsible for the hate infiltrating their platforms, because they have a responsibility to help fight against this threat to our democracy,” she said. “And if you profit off of hate—if you act as a megaphone for misinformation or cyberwarfare, if you don’t police your platforms—we are going to hold you accountable as a community.”
Other Democratic candidates share her censorious zeal.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) laughed off Harris’s demand to shut down Trump’s Twitter account, but she still wants Big Tech to censor more. When some commentators questioned whether the half-Indian, half-Jamaican Harris was authentically African American, Warren claimed this is the kind of speech tech platforms should censor.
The attacks against @KamalaHarris are racist and ugly. We all have an obligation to speak out and say so. And it’s within the power and obligation of tech companies to stop these vile lies dead in their tracks.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) June 29, 2019
Warren herself has been the victim of tech censorship and criticized Facebook for taking down her ads. Yet she believes Big Tech is somehow obliged to suppress “hate speech.”
Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke’s plan for ending “gun violence” included punishments for tech companies that fail to censor “hate speech.” O’Rourke wants the special immunities given to tech platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to be revoked if they do not suppress hateful content.
“We must connect the dots between internet communities providing a platform for online radicalization and white supremacy, as propaganda outlets like Fox News fuel that fire,” he said.
In Beto’s mind, Fox News also needs to be suppressed, revealing how the liberal drive for censorship won’t stop with Twitter trolls. It will go all the way to Fox News and the president of the United States.
Some readers may be familiar with Section 230, which protects social media platforms from standard publisher liabilities on the premise that they operate as neutral forums and not as publishers. Many conservatives have wanted to target this perk as punishment for Big Tech’s flagrant bias and censorship. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) proposed a bill this summer that would revoke this protection if they are found to censor too much. In contrast, Democrats want to revoke the privilege if the tech giants don’t censor enough.
Democrats questioned Section 230 protection after Facebook allowed an altered video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to go unchecked in May. The social media giant capitulated to the Democrats’ threats and removed the offending video, demonstrating the company’s greater respect for liberal demands. No Republican could have made Facebook do such a thing.
Democrats emphasize their censorious bent in the multiple hearings they’ve held on “white nationalism” this year. In April, Democrats grilled Google and Facebook representatives on why their companies don’t censor more. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) even wrongly asserted that hate speech was illegal. These lawmakers were particularly appalled that Canadian commentator Faith Goldy was allowed to share videos on Facebook.
In the Barack Obama era, Democrats were hailed as the party of social media. Obama was one of the first major politicians to harness the power of social media to his advantage. Now that conservatives have shown they can use social media effectively, Democrats want to suppress this technology. Only they can use it.
Liberals blame social media for Trump’s election and want to do what they can to ensure another Trump never happens again. That’s why they want more censorship and less freedom. Republicans, for good or ill, present the only hope to preserve online free speech. Democrats simply can’t be trusted.