How can former President Trump, through his attorneys, argue that even though Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are private (albeit publicly traded) companies, they none-the-less must abide by the First Amendment? Mr. Trump’s frames his class action lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as a clarion call for First Amendment protection against censorship. Censorship is an anathema to a functioning democracy; it imposes silence when there ought to be speech and debate. The First Amendment is one of America’s superpowers, and its power is at its zenith when political speech is silenced.
However, even superpowers have their limits. The constitution in general and the First Amendment in particular applies only to the relationship between the government and US citizens, residents, or (sometimes) visitors to our shores. It does not apply to relationships between non-governmental entities and those same people. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are non-governmental entities and the relationship between those social media platforms and their users is governed by the terms of their user agreements. Each platform delineates what is acceptable speech and reserves the right of the platform…Read More
Lynn Greenky is an Associate Teaching Professor at Syracuse University in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies. She teaches a beloved undergraduate course about the First Amendment. She is the author of When Freedom Speaks: The Boundaries and Boundlessness of the First Amendment. You can follow her on Twitter @LGreenky.