Donald Trump says Twitter and FB banning people is dangerous but he is wrong
Social media is at a very volatile state right now. While on one hand, companies like Facebook and Twitter are trying to put a leash to the menace of fake news and fake accounts on their platforms, on the other hand, another important debate is raging. These companies and others like them are now face an important question pertaining to freedom of speech. And that question became even more important on Monday as the US President Donald Trump, who is very active on Twitter and whose tweets are often controversial, weighed on the issue. He says that if Twitter and Facebook start banning users then that will be "dangerous".
Trump made his comments in an interview to Reuters. He said it was dangerous on part of the social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to silence voices. And his recent statement is in line with a series of tweets on August 18 wherein he blamed social media for discriminating against conservative voices.
"Too many voices are being destroyed, some good & some bad, and that cannot be allowed to happen. Who is making the choices, because I can already tell you that too many mistakes are being made. Let everybody participate, good & bad, and we will all just have to figure it out!," he wrote in one of the tweets.
These statements follow the action taken by Apple, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media companies against InfoWars founder and far-right conspiracy theorists Alex Jones. "I won't mention names but when they take certain people off of Twitter or Facebook and they're making that decision, that is really a dangerous thing because that could be you tomorrow," Trump said in statement to Reuters.
Trump, who has 53.9 million followers on Twitter, has made the platform an integral part of his presidential discourses. Sometimes he uses it to announce his policies and promote his agenda and other times he attacks his opponents. And many times, his controversial statements have made quite a buzz on the internet. Remember the time he called Meryl Streep over-rated?
Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn't know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a.....Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2017
And when he called American media channels including the NewYork Times, NBC News and CNN News News, an enemy of the American people?
While for Trump the solution might be simple - let everyone talk and let people believe in what they want to believe in (which can be dangerous, I might add), the answer in reality is more complex than that.
The problem that these tech companies are trying to solve is complicated. While the social media companies may have defined the norms to explain the content that is permitted on their platforms ages ago, the lines today have become blurrier than ever before. To put it simply, what might have been permitted five or even two years ago on these social media platforms isn't allowed anymore. More specifically, what might be an expression of freedom of speech to one, might be the definition of violation of rights or abuse to another.
The world we are living in doesn't just believe in activism but also in digital activism. Awareness has increased. People are more active online that they are in the physical world.
At a time like time like this, tech companies are treading with caution in banning voices from their platforms. While Alex Jones' case might have been the first one wherein social media and content sharing platforms including Spotify, Vimeo, and Stitcher have acted on collective conscience to ban the account of an individual who has been spewing hate-speech against minorities like Muslims, transgenders and immigrants, and spreading fake news via his channels, it is certainly not the first time that individuals have been banned for a particular platform. In the past, Twitter has banned many celebrities including Kamaal R Khan, Rose McGowan, Abhijeet Bhattacharya for violating its policies. Similarly, Instagram had banned Rihanna and Chelsea Handler for posting nudes on the photo-sharing service.
The obvious question here is-- is Trump's solution indeed the right way to go about it? Is banning individual accounts really unfair and dangerous?
The answer is no, it isn't. Freedom of speech is important. Sharing view points and information is right. But sharing a thought which disrespects another individual or a group of individuals is outright abuse. Publishing content on a public platform which isn't correct is fake news and amounts to spreading misinformation. Should social media platforms become a more liberal version of China and outright banish people for sharing opposing (or rather controversial) views? No. Should they be given a chance to correct their actions? Yes (which is what every digital platform is doing).
Human discretion is important and it should be deployed at every level of communication, which includes the initial stage at which the false information is shared. Also, if we are holding the social media platforms responsible for various issues existing on their platforms, then they should be allowed to take remedial measures time to time in order to maintain the sanctity of the cyber space.