Banning Trump from Twitter would be a disservice to the publicby Anthony L. Fisher
- Trump’s tweets promoting a fake conspiracy theory have disgusted even conservatives and led to increased calls to ban him from the platform. That would be a mistake.
- Courts have held that public officials can’t block social media users because their accounts are public forums while they’re in office.
- Twitter can do what it wants as a private company, but banning elected officials’ accounts – such as Trump’s – would be a public disservice.
- The president shares misinformation, outright lies, and abuse via Twitter. But it’s better to know this is where his head is at than to pretend it isn’t happening.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Twitter is not a public utility, despite the push in recent years to have certain tech companies declared part of the public commons.
While the social media giant remains a private entity that makes its own rules, some of the content it hosts falls squarely in the public interest. This would include elected officials’ Twitter accounts.
The power and influence wielded by elected officials entitles the public to as much transparency as possible into the thought processes of their representatives in government.
That includes Donald Trump’s deranged tweets spreading despicable fake conspiracy theories about a woman’s tragic death nearly two decades ago.
We’re better off knowing this is how the president thinks than trying to whack-a-mole his worst thoughts down the memory hole.
Trump is providing transparency on his unfitness for the presidency
The leader of the free world, governing a country on the brink of a depression and suffering through a pandemic, is practically begging Twitter to ban him from its platform.
With all that should be occupying his time and energy, he has instead chosen to continue his public war of words with his former friend Joe Scarborough, the MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host and former Republican congressman from Florida.
Though Trump has a long history of promoting conspiracy theories, he’s now relentlessly using his Twitter feed to accuse Scarborough of murdering a former staffer, Lori Klausutis, who died in 2001.
Klausutis had an undiagnosed heart condition, and died of trauma after collapsing and hitting her head on a desk.
Despite widely-available facts and a plea from Klausutis’ widower to leave his late wife’s memory out of his unhinged attacks, Trump doubled-down on the fake conspiracy theory to reporters Tuesday.
The often Trump-friendly Wall Street Journal editorial board slammed Trump’s conspiracy tweets as “debasing his office, and he’s hurting the country in doing so.” In a comparison that must sting Trump, the board said Trump is “trafficking in the same sort of trash” as “the lies spread about him in the Steele dossier.”
The right-leaning but sometimes Trump-critical Washington Examiner editorial board said “observers might even someday look back at this incident as the instant when things began to unravel.”
And the staunchly conservative New York Post editorial board warned Trump that “You might be making your enemies angry, but you’re making allies tune out.”
Trump is demonstrating his unfitness for office, and Twitter is the platform where he’s making conservatives and stout allies cringe, because his actions are indefensible.
If one agrees that Trump is unfit and wants the world to see him at his worst, taking away his microphone is the least advisable course of action.
Lawmakers’ tweets are public record
America offers far too much pomp and circumstance to our elected officials (is there really any reason a one-term member of Congress should be addressed with the honorific for the rest of their life?).
We elevate lawmakers as “leaders” when they are in fact, public servants. We give those jobs their legitimacy, and the people in those jobs in turn make decisions that affect our lives. That’s why they can’t shut out the public, however much they’d like to.
Both Trump and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York learned through the courts over the past year that they could not block critics on Twitter without violating the First Amendment. The reason is because as public officials, their Twitter accounts are public forums. Denying the public access to that forum is unconstitutional.
Elected officials’ social media accounts offer a window into their thinking. And say what you want about Twitter, it shows us where Trump’s head is at. That’s a good thing.
Would the public rather not know that he’s taking some of his policy cues from Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens? Is it in the public interest to hide his ignorance and gullibility? More information is always better than less with public officials, especially when they’re metaphorically showing their rear ends.
Trump is a performative victim and a free speech tourist, posing a staunch First Amendment defender who in fact has a long history of supporting censorship and intimidating the free press that continues into his presidency.
Depriving him of his favorite toy would only allow him to falsely claim free speech martyrdom.
Twitter is a private company free to impose any policies of conduct it wishes (whether it’s healthy for society to have tech corporations as the arbiters of free expression is a conversation for another time), but his removal from the site would not violate the constitution.
But there’s another small matter that demonstrates the pointlessness of banning him: he’s the president.
Reporters will continue to tweet and print his words. He’ll still appear on TV. He’ll still represent the country on the global stage.
The knowledge of how unstable, willfully ignorant, and vindictive our president is chilling. But a muzzled, secretive, mysteriously quiet Trump would be a much more frightening prospect.