’First Amendment does not apply’: Law expert says Trump’s social media ban is constitutional

Published: Jan. 9, 2021 at 7:52 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Twitter has defined the voice of the Trump Administration for the past four years, but after Wednesday’s deadly insurgence at the US Capitol, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have permanently banned the president.

Virginia Senator Amanda Chase is facing similar suspensions from Facebook after the social media giant says she spread false claims about the riots. The move is drawing criticism from Trump, Chase, and others who are calling the decision a violation of free speech. But VCU constitutional law expert, Dr. John Aughenbaugh, says that isn’t the case.

“What Twitter did does not violate the First Amendment of the constitution,” Aughenbaugh said. “The First Amendment applies to the government, and Twitter or Facebook, or any other social media platform, by and large, is a private sector actor and therefore the First Amendment does not apply.”

Aughenbaugh says even without social media, the government isn’t stopping anyone from expressing free speech elsewhere.

The president can go the streets, issue a press release, call up his friends talk to supporters, sure. The government is not stopping the president or anyone else for that matter,” Aughenbaugh said.

In addition, by using platforms like Twitter or Facebook, Augenbaugh says you are also agreeing to their terms of the agreement.

“In joining or using the platform, you agree to certain conditions. And if you don’t, the platform can ban you,” Aughenbaugh said.

Because so many people specifically use social media to express their voice, Aughenbaugh says Twitter and Facebook’s actions raise important questions.

“What’s the purpose of social media?” Aughenbaugh said. “Is it supposed to be an echo-chamber where you get to hear your voice and your platform? Or is the purpose of any social media platform to be exposed to ideas that are different from yours that you may possibly not like? So, what are you willing to trade-off?”

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