Why the First Amendment matters to understanding Trump’s social media bans

The gravity of what happened in Washington, DC last week cannot be overstated. There can be no excuse for the people who attacked the Capitol. There is no justification for what they did. They should be identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

In the process, Trump was banned from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Google and Apple has deleted Speak from their respective app stores. Not surprisingly, Trump supporters are trying to shine a light on the Constitution.

On Saturday morning, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted: “The world is laughing at America and Mao, Lenin and Stalin are smiling. Can big tech censor the president? Freedom of speech is dead and controlled by the lords of the left. Obviously, young Trump has no idea what he’s talking about. His argument is absurd. In fact, it’s exactly upside down.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America reads: “Congress shall not make any law respecting the establishment of any religion or prohibiting its free exercise; or restrict freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to assemble peacefully and ask the government to redress their grievances. “

The First Amendment was drafted to protect private citizens from a tyrannical government that could create a state religion – as almost every other country had done at the time the document was written. It also prevents the government from telling people what to think or what to say (which is the norm under a totalitarian or dictatorial regime), prevents it from controlling the press (as is still the case in far too many countries around the world), protects the right of citizens to assemble for peaceful protest and guarantees that citizens can notify the government when they want something dealt with.

The First Amendment is easy to read. Do you know what that doesn’t say? He’s not saying Trump has the right to force Twitter, Facebook, Google, or Apple to leave him on their platforms. In fact, he specifically says that as president – “the” government – he cannot.

If you want to shout about the First Amendment, you should read it first. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Google and Apple are private companies owned by individuals. They, not the government, are protected by the First Amendment.

Another important note on the First Amendment. This does not apply to you, your friends, the company you work for, or anyone else. He is silent on the consequences you might suffer for expressing your opinion. It simply states that the government cannot restrict what you say or put you in jail for them unless your words include one of the following: incitement, (defined by the Supreme Court as “plea for the use of force ”), incitement to suicide, false statements of fact, obscenity, child pornography,“ fighting words ”, threats against the President of the United States, false advertising or factually false allegations made by commercial companies and plagiarism.

In America, you are still free to say almost anything you want. But before you speak, you need to consider the potential consequences. If your comments fall into one of the exceptional categories above, the consequences will be legal. But remember: The First Amendment does not apply to private companies. If you are an “at will” employee and even if you have an employment contract, you can still be dismissed instantly if (based on something you have said, done or posted on social media) your company decides that you are no longer a good fit. “

The First Amendment is not complex. It is a valuable part of a document that describes the very soul of our constitutional republic. What’s complex is what happened to objective truth in the age of social media.

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