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Finding a balance between censorship and sensitivity

By Lawrence Ye Mar. 17, 2021

Beomhee Kim Art


As Congress assembled to certify the 2020 presidential election results on Jan. 6, a crowd gathered outside of the White House to listen to former president Donald Trump speak. In his address to the audience, Trump encouraged them to “fight like hell.” Soon after, riots broke out on the Capitol Building’s steps, forcing evacuations in the House of Representatives and Senate Chambers. Later that day, Twitter cited “the risk of further incitement of violence” in a tweet as they suspended Trump’s account.

Facebook and Instagram quickly followed suit, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg justifying his decision by referring to Trump’s rhetoric as possibly inflammatory and provocative. In the following week, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitch and Shopify all imposed similar bans.

Twitter has since permanently banned Trump’s account, even if he were to assume the presidency again.

Twitter has since permanently banned Trump’s account, even if he were to assume the presidency again. In addition, the company stated on its blog that they suspended more than 70,000 accounts for spreading QAnon—a disproven far-right conspiracy theory—related content, which they believe may have contributed to the Capitol riots.

“The ban of Trump’s Twitter account is a polarizing subject, but it is definitely within reason. When users sign up for a service such as Twitter, they agree to follow the guidelines to maintain safety. Although Trump was a powerful figure with tens of millions of followers, his language on the platform was sparking violence, which is unacceptable,” Sophomore Keshav Sethi said.

However, these platforms have also been criticized for banning Trump’s accounts. According to NPR, Trump and other prominent conservatives, including Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo and radio host Mark Levin, fled to Parler, an app that promotes its lack of censorship. Apple and Google later removed the service from their respective app stores, citing the transmission of violent posts, in the past, as justification. Amazon Web Services then announced that it would stop hosting the program, leaving Parler with no backend provider and sparking further backlash from Trump supporters against Big Tech companies.

As shown in a Pew Research survey from June 2020, about three out of every four American adults feel that social media companies intentionally censor objectionable political views.

However, the topic of censorship is a major area of controversy for the U.S. as a whole, not just Trump supporters. As shown in a Pew Research survey from June 2020, about three out of every four American adults feel that social media companies intentionally censor objectionable political views. The same survey shows that Americans are split on whether social media platforms should label posts from elected officials as inaccurate or misleading, with 51 percent approving and 46 percent opposing.

“There should be more censorship on posts that encourage violence or spread misinformation on social media platforms to protect users from harm and ensure that they receive accurate information,” Freshman Jonathan Ouyang said.

Although it is essential to curb violence online, social media platforms must adhere to standardized protocol to decrease bias and ensure that any ban is backed by a clearly outlined reasoning. While social media companies do set their own terms and conditions, their vague wording often leaves room for interpretation and sparks backlash from those who are subject to them.

Nevertheless, completely silencing a governmental figure, like Trump during his presidency, hinders the spread of political information. While specific, strict content guidelines must be accompanied by consequences once violated, a ubiquitous expulsion from all mainstream social networks is unreasonable for the majority of users—especially when it impedes a public official’s duty to speak to the public.

As prominent public entities, companies and governments must set aside their differences and work together to establish a new set of regulations, ensuring that all users and content are moderated equally. In doing so, every voice in the public domain can be respected, creating a free-flowing exchange of ideas without restrictive constraints.

 

About the Contributors

Lawrence Ye

Staff Writer


Lawrence Ye is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer for the Leland Charger Account. He likes to swim and travel and loves his pets, Simon and Meatball.

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