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Why Is Big Tech Policing Speech?

The New York Times – “Because the Government Isn’t. Deplatforming President Trump showed that the First Amendment is broken — but not in the way his supporters think….The giants of social media — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram — had more stringent rules. And while they still amplified huge amounts of far-right content, they had started using warning labels and deletions to clamp down on misinformation about Covid-19 and false claims of electoral fraud, including in posts by President Trump. Conservative figures, including Senator Ted Cruz, Eric Trump and Sean Hannity, grew increasingly critical of the sites and beckoned followers to join them on Parler, whose investors include the right-wing activist and heiress Rebekah Mercer. The format was like Twitter’s, but with only two clear rules: no criminal activity and no spam or bots. On Parler, you could say what you wanted without being, as conservatives complained, “silenced.”…

Social media sites effectively function as the public square where people debate the issues of the day. But the platforms are actually more like privately owned malls: They make and enforce rules to keep their spaces tolerable, and unlike the government, they’re not obligated to provide all the freedom of speech offered by the First Amendment. Like the bouncers at a bar, they are free to boot anyone or anything they consider disruptive. In the days after Jan. 6, they swiftly cracked down on whole channels and accounts associated with the violence. Reddit removed the r/DonaldTrump subreddit. YouTube tightened its policy on posting videos that called the outcome of the election into doubt. TikTok took down posts with hashtags like #stormthecapitol. Facebook indefinitely suspended Trump’s account, and Twitter — which, like Facebook, had spent years making some exceptions to its rules for the president — took his account away permanently…”

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