Freedom of Tweets: Banning Trump was too little too late

Aoife Noonan

On the 7th of January, the 45th President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, was banned from Twitter. While many would consider this just another embarrassing moment in America’s history, the removal of the President from one of the largest social media platforms raises concerning questions, with concerning answers.

Twitter has long been criticized for its lack of response to the hate speech spoken on its platform.

The company has a hateful conduct policy which states that users may not “promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease”. But the platform is still overrun with thousands of white nationalists.

In an article written by Vice journalists Joseph Cox and Jason Koebler, they spoke with a Twitter employee who said that Twitter has declined to implement an algorithmic solution to white nationalism because doing so would disproportionately affect Republicans.

In other words, actually implementing their hateful speech policy would see a removal of many right wing supporters from the app.

But does supporting a right wing political party automatically make you a racist, homophobic, misogynistic person? Well, if the party’s policies are racist (Trump’s anti-immigration policies and support of hate groups), homophobic (The Republican-elected Vice President Mike Pence who supports conversion therapy) and misogynistic (too many instances to choose from), it sure looks like it.

Trump’s Twitter account, where he incited violence against Black Lives Matter protests and encouraged his supporters to invade the Capitol, deliberately went against the Twitter policy.

Thanks to laws that Republicans instated to allow private business to refuse service, Twitter was well within their rights to ban him.

While we celebrate the censoring of racism, it raises a bigger issue; who decides which voice is heard? Who decides what’s right or wrong?

In June, Instagram updated their terms of service to ban accounts found to be promoting sex work, but was that to prevent harm against its users or did it stem from the creators own opinions?

In September, Twitter users realised that its photo cropping feature automatically focused on white faces over black ones.

The social media platform TikTok is notorious for shadow banning users and suppressing hashtags. In particular, black creators who showed their support of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

While Twitter’s decision to ban Trump was a welcome one, it seems performative on a platform that has been long criticised on its latency to protect its users from hate speech. And while Trump may be off the platform, we still have a long way to go before he’s out of office too.

Aoife Noonan

Image Credit: Twitter