Kamala Harris urged Twitters CEO to ban Trump. Is she right, or would it amount to an assault on free speech?
Should Donald Trump, the most powerful man in the world, be banned from Twitter?
Kamala Harris thinks so. On Tuesday she sent a letter to Twitters CEO arguing that Trump has been violating the platforms user agreement. Harris pointed to recent tweets Trump had sent harassing the Ukraine whistleblower and the House intelligence committee chairman, Adam Schiff, as well as Trumps infamous tweet threatening civil war.
These, Harris said, constitute blatant threats that put people at risk and our democracy in danger. No user, regardless of their job, wealth, or stature should be exempt from abiding by Twitters user agreement, not even the President of the United States, Harris concluded.
Twitter has acknowledged Harriss letter and said it will be responding.
This is far from the first time Trump has been accused of violating Twitters rules; nor is it the first time there has been debate about whether the president should be kicked off the platform. The argument has been raging ever since he got elected. In January, Twitter addressed controversy about Trumps tweeting without explicitly naming the president in a blogpost titled World Leaders on Twitter.
Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate, the blogpost explained. It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.
Is banning Trump an assault on free speech?
Theres been a lot of outrage about the sanctity of the first amendment following Harriss call to ban Trump from Twitter. The Democratic presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard, for example, said: We cant just cancel or shut down or silence those who we disagree with or who hold different views or who say things even that we strongly disagree with. These freedoms and principles enshrined in our constitution are things we have to take very seriously.
In response, Harriss national press secretary, Ian Sams, accused Gabbard of echoing Fox News. This was the exact talking point @FoxNews personalities were promulgating on air all day yesterday, Sams tweeted on Wednesday.
This may not have been the most helpfully worded response by Sams, who sounds like he is arguing that free speech is a rightwing talking point. However, it is true that banning Trump from Twitter isnt really a free speech issue. As Twitter itself noted in its January blogpost, banning a world leader wouldnt silence them. If Trump was forced off Twitter he could just go on Fox News every day. He could hold more press conferences. Hell, he could even start his own social network.