Trump's face cut from a newspaper

Words matter on social media: Who decides about the limits to freedom of speech?

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We all saw the images of the rioters storming the US Capitol on January 6th. Most of us probably also noticed that following the insurrection, Twitter and Facebook banned Donald Trump from their platforms. While this might seem like a problem far from home, the insurrection also gives us food for thought in Europe. Distrust of institutions and false narratives are gaining ground everywhere and threaten to break up our democracies.

The ban of an elected official from social media invites discussion about the balance between online platforms being allowed to ban users who violate their policies and freedom of expression, especially of elected officials. It also asks us to consider the relationship between our governments and online platforms, since so far the CEO's of these platforms have been allowed to make these decisions without broad regulatory oversight by governments. To address this lack of oversight, the European Commission proposed the European Democracy Act, the Digital Services act, and the Digital Markets act.

  • Do you think online platforms should be allowed to ban elected officials from their platforms?
  • Who should take responsibility for what is said on social media and the possible following actions – is it the author or do tech companies share responsibility for what users post on their platforms?
  • What are your fact-checking habits when you go through content on social media?
  • Should there be more regulatory oversight by governments over these online platforms?

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30 January 2021

Social media platforms are vital mechanisms for the sustainment of democracy. Thus government should not take control over them. The companies that own those platforms should not act like dictators and ban whoever they want from their platforms for no true and specific reason that leaves no other choice (for example verbal harassment, inappropriate content etc.). As for the elected officials, they ought to know their status and act properly when using social platforms. If their acts harm democracy, for example by having bad intentions and manipulating people, they should be banned from that platform, just like any other non elected person would have been banned if they were so toxic for the community.