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Does Free Speech Have Limits on Social Media? (Podcast)

June 28, 2021, 5:58 PM

Permanently revoking users’ access to social media platforms— a practice known as “deplatforming “— isn’t a new concept, but the high-profile ban of President Donald Trump has raised new questions about censorship and free speech in the internet age.

For years Twitter famously clung to its identity as “the free speech wing of the free-speech party.” Meanwhile, Facebook employed a policy that mostly excluded politicians from content moderation rules that applied to other users. Yet, within days of the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms suspended the accounts of the president of the United States.

First Amendment lawyers point out that the Constitution protects Americans from government censorship of speech. However, social media platforms are businesses run by companies. They have terms of service and aren’t obligated to provide a platform to anyone. Still, whether one views the deplatforming of a U.S. president as necessary or not, many say the more important question is whether tech companies should be the ones deciding where to set the boundaries for online speech.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Adam Allington in Washington at aallington@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the executive producer and editor responsible for this podcast: Josh Block at jBlock@bloombergindustry.com

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