Pro/Con: Twitter should unblock Trump's account

screenshot by Maya Preuss from Twitter

Pro/Con: Twitter should unblock Trump’s account

March 17, 2021

Pro

When Twitter blocked former President Donald Trump in early January, millions of Americans breathed a sigh of relief. For many, this decision felt like a fitting ending to four years of irresponsible leadership and blatant lies.

While pundits and politicians raised the question of whether our individual liberties were being targeted, I was initially unconcerned. It seemed clear that unless individuals with millions of followers used their influence to incite domestic terrorism, average American Twitter users had nothing to fear.

Yet after the news broke, it wasn’t just the expected Trump loyalists who condemned Twitter. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Australian Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny all voiced their adamant disagreement.  

These leaders aren’t necessarily worried about the implications of Twitter’s decision in America but are instead concerned about the implications of this decision on the rest of the world. In countries like China, Russia and Iran, citizens are still trying to enact the kind of basic individual liberties that our country achieved back in 1776. For these countries’ corrupt leaders, Twitter’s Trump account ban could be used to normalize and justify their anti-democratic actions. 

The banning of Trump’s Twitter account is also problematic because of the lack of structure and transparency behind Twitter’s decision-making process. In a democracy, respected individuals should be given the right to assess whether one’s speech crosses the line from harmless to harmful. 

For example, Facebook has created a “Supreme Court” of 20 respected and knowledgeable individuals to oversee free speech decisions. But Twitter has not been as proactive, as its decision came from the billionaire CEO and his top executives. 

Instead of using a reckless and spontaneous decision-making system, Twitter should address our world’s increasingly virtual communication by creating new and democratic decision-making organizations. Then the company will garner more trust when assessing individuals who truly don’t deserve any freedom of expression, like ISIS recruiters or genociding dictators.

For these reasons, one of the most influential activists of our time, Russian Alexei Navalny, made it clear that he viewed Twitter’s move as dangerous. Navalny is currently in jail for, among other things, violating his probation terms after being poisoned by dictator Vladimir Putin and unconsciously evacuated to Germany. In other words, Navalny is in jail for failing to succumb to an assassination attempt. 

The fact that someone currently rotting in prison for standing up to corruption is so worried about this decision’s implications in his country further suggests that Twitter and liberals should re-evaluate their stance. 

Instead of making a decision with negative ramifications for the rest of the world without any decision-making process in place, Twitter should go about this subject in a more nuanced manner. The best way to do this would be to evaluate every tweet made by Trump and other radical individuals on a tweet-by-tweet basis. 

If a tweet in any way encourages violence or pushes a dangerous and false narrative, Twitter and similar social media companies should delete it immediately. But by allowing Trump to retain the freedom to tweet about his “very good brain” and other unimportant and harmless subjects, America would be able to project its unwavering stance on freedom of expression to the rest of the world.

The unimaginable power and influence of social media could change our society for the better if it leads to greater participation in democracy, or change our society for the worse if manipulative and addictive algorithms continue to polarize and radicalize our society. Either way, we need to acknowledge how crucial virtual freedom of speech is by creating stable and transparent decision-making systems when assessing harmful individuals, like the former president and their tweets. 

Social media companies like Twitter must proactively address the question of free speech on the internet to take into account the needs of all 195 countries. We must project an unwavering commitment to free speech and democratic values to these countries’ citizens, starting with granting Trump his Twitter account back while monitoring it minute-by-minute. 

No one believes there is a perfect solution to the future of free speech, which is why we can’t resort to the quick-fix solution of a permanent ban. Instead, let’s engage in a conversation, share innovative solutions, and eventually determine the role of our 1st amendment on social media platforms across the world.

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Con

Through platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, people share intimate details of their lives. Social media allows parents to share baby pictures, activists to plan social justice marches and chefs to post recipes for the best cookies. 

But social media also allows people to spread lies and incite riots. As a society, we have to decide what people are allowed to spread on social media and what the consequences should be if they break these guidelines.

Following former President Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election, Trump used his Twitter account to spread conspiracies about the election. He told his supporters that the election was rigged and not to accept the clear results of the election. These conspiracy tweets played a part in his supporters thinking that they were robbed of democracy and incited the riots on Jan. 5 and 6. Trump even went to the extent of posting a video on Twitter during the riots calling the domestic terrorists “very special” and that he “loved them.” 

After spreading hatred and inciting the riot at the capital, President Donald Trump was finally held accountable for his actions and banned from Twitter on Jan. 8. 

Trump was an active member of the Twitter community and used his account to cover both work and personal motives. If Trump was treated the same as a typical Twitter user, his account would have been banned years ago, as he continuously broke Twitter’s general guidelines.

Twitter has various sets of guidelines for its users including a COVID-19 section. This section has a strict policy regarding the spread of false information about COVID-19. Trump blatantly disregarded this rule by tweeting false statements such as  “99%” of COVID-19 cases are totally harmless” and after being sick with COVID-19, “You get better, and then you’re immune.” 

This tweet tells the American public that a deadly virus that has killed 526,000 Americans is not dangerous. By using his very large platform to spread misinformation, Trump put the whole country at risk. 

Trump implied that his ban from Twitter was a violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. This is an utter misunderstanding of the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from infringing on free speech (with some exceptions). However, the First Amendment does not mean much for social media, since those companies are private institutions that are unaffiliated with the government. 

Simply put, Trump wasn’t banned from Twitter for any of his political beliefs, he was banned for breaking various Twitter guidelines and using the platform as a tool to incite violence.

Trump in no way deserves to have his Twitter account reinstated. Trump did not even learn his lesson as immediately after his private account, @realDonaldTrump, got banned, he tweeted on the official presidential account, @POTUS. Trump revealed his anger in this decision by his angry tweets at democrats, Twitter and Section 230 (internet legislation)  and even went to the extent of saying he would create his own social media platform. This immature attitude and continuous breaking of rules should not be tolerated.

From obstructing his own impeachment search to not releasing his tax returns, Trump is notorious for working around the law for his personal benefit. These are merely a few examples of times Trump dodged the law and received little to no punishments for his actions. Trump is finally held accountable by Twitter for his actions, and this punishment should remain permanent. 

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