Social media is under fresh fire in the wake of what is being called an “insurrection,” after a mob stormed the US Capitol.
The US Congress met Wednesday to tally the Electoral College votes. Lawmakers were interrupted, however, when a mob stormed the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to shelter-in-place and eventually evacuate. In the aftermath of the unprecedented scene that unfolded, much of the attention turned to President Trump and the role he played in inciting the mob.
At the same time, attention also turned to social media companies that have increasingly been criticized for allowing hate speech and radical content on their platforms. In many cases, social media platforms allow public officials more leeway than private citizens’ in the name of public interest.
It appears today’s events, however, were the final straw, with Twitter banning President Trump for 12 hours and Facebook locking his account for 24. Twitter removed three of Trump’s tweets and Facebook put up warning labels. Twitter has also said its ban will become permanent if there are any further infractions against its policies.
This means that the account of @realDonaldTrump will be locked for 12 hours following the removal of these Tweets. If the Tweets are not removed, the account will remain locked.— Safety (@Safety) January 7, 2021
Future violations of the Twitter Rules, including our Civic Integrity or Violent Threats policies, will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account.— Safety (@Safety) January 7, 2021
In spite of those actions, some are saying the platforms have not gone far enough. In recent months, Section 230 — the law that protects social media platforms from legal liability for what their users post — has drawn attention from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Many politicians, as well as industry experts, believe it is time to revisit the law and repeal it in favor of regulation that combines freedom of speech with civic responsibility.
In view of yesterday’s events, we may have witnessed Section 230’s dying breath and, with it, the death knell of the sweeping immunity social media platforms have enjoyed.