Think You Can Post Anything on Social Media? Think Again.

Most students believe that they can post anything on social media and not face repercussions. While the 1st Amendment does protect speech, it does not protect all talkin’.

Think You Can Post Anything on Social Media? Think Again.

For most Americans, the Washington Capitol is considered a sacred place in American culture. Throughout history, many of America’s defining decisions were made inside the Capitol, such as a woman’s right to vote or the end of segregation. Thus making the building become more than bricks and stones, but a place of refuge for justice and the law. Most Americans believe the Capitol to be invincible.

But as we know that belief was shattered when the nation’s own citizens raided the building for the first time since 1814 during the Burning of Washington.

Before the raid began, former President Donald Trump hosted a rally that USAToday said was the cause of the riot. Following the raid, former President Donald Trump was removed from sites such as Reddit, Instagram, Amazon, and Twitter. 

Twitter specifically said that Trump was removed for tweets that “incite violence.” These bans made Trump supporters and free-speech advocates alike cry with outrage, insisting that his ban was a violation of free speech and unconstitutional. 

The already divided political parties were split into even smaller segments in lieu of the social media bans, causing both Republican and Democrat celebrities and politicians to fall on either side of the debate. Some people argue that Trump was in the wrong and deserved to be banned while others disagree. The most popular argument supporting the ban of Trump was that social media sites such as Twitter did not remove Trump as fast as they could have, and people should be cautious to uplift the actions of these companies. 

For example, Jillian C. York, a prominent American free-speech activist and author said, “I’m cautious about praising any of these companies, to be honest. I think that in particular, Facebook deserves very little praise. They waited until the last moment to do anything, despite months of calls… When it comes to Twitter, I think we can be a little bit more forgiving. They tried for many, many months to take cautious decisions. Yes, this is a sitting president, taking them down is a problem. And it is problematic, even if there is a line at which it becomes the right choice.”

In a survey, 57.5% of Cheyenne Mountain students find themselves aligned with beliefs such as York’s. But instead of focusing on the company and issue within, some students believe that since the corporations that banned him are private companies, they have the right to ban or retain whomever they may please. 

“ …If the posts go against the social media platform’s code of conduct, then it is okay for the person to be banned. Social media is not necessarily a place for free speech, as it is run by a company, and if an individual (or company) is using the site in a way that is not approved by the company, and is specifically in their terms of service or code of conduct, then they have every right to boot the person,” said a participant in The Mountain News survey. 

Moreover, in the survey, some students also argued that since Trump incited violence at the Capitol with his rallies and tweets, he wasn’t in the realms of rights that are protected by the First Amendment, therefore this debate is obsolete.

 “Are all instances of free speech protected? No. If you have tens of millions of followers, people who will believe only you, and you instill in their minds that the only solution to maintaining their power is a violent overthrow of the government, you have committed a criminal act.” an anonymous surveyee said. 

But despite many Americans’ claims of Trump’s tweets as violent and aggressive, there are still some who believe that it is unlawful and unconstitutional to ban Trump from social media platforms. Many Americans, such as Donald Trump Jr., argue that this is a violation of his First Amendment rights, and even if he said hateful or derogatory comments on the Internet, that does not mean he should be banned from Twitter or Reddit for saying these comments if they are what he believes. 

Following his father’s controversial ban, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted his opinions on the situation. “Free speech is dead and controlled by leftist overlords, … The Ayatollah and numerous other dictatorial regimes can have Twitter accounts with no issue despite threatening genocide to entire countries and killing homosexuals etc… but The President of the United States should be permanently suspended. Mao would be proud.”

37.5% of Cheyenne students, although not all Trump supporters, feel similarly. In a survey posted by Mountain News, a common belief was that social media as the main source of information for most Americans nationwide has warped and a sense of free speech. 

Social media, the primary source of political information of young people currently (unfortunately), should not suppress the freedom of speech for only those who they disagree with. It promotes further intolerance for various points of view that is not what our country represents. 

Another anonymous participant in a survey posted by the Mountain News stated, “Personally,I do not adhere to all beliefs of either political party, and regardless of if this was occurring to a Democratic or Republican candidate, I believe it to be completely unacceptable,” 

Furthermore, the 37.5% of students that believe that Trump’s ban was unconstitutional also argue that certain videos and tweets of other movements have caused the movement to look like it’s uglier than it actually is, comparing the Black Lives Matter movement riot videos to the banning of Trump.

“This act that large tech companies did to Trump represents everything America is not. He may have abused his right, but that does not give others the right to take it away…Recently I watched a black lives matter video, and there were people who tried to take that movement and make it ugly, turn it into something that it wasn’t. The way people acted at the capitol which led to Trump being banned were those people trying to turn things ugly,” one surveyee said.. 

I believe that former President Trump should have been banned from Twitter, and it is an act of ignorance to all those who he has harmed that he was not banned sooner, or that companies such as Twitter or Facebook did not implement measures to prevent his offensive tweets from reaching the public as far as they did. Free speech, as said in the First Amendment, does not include all types of speech, and does not protect all forms of free speech, such as hate speech, violent speech, and threats. 

For example, threats are not protected under the First Amendment, and on December 23, 2020, Donald Trump tweeted: “…Some friendly health advice to Iran: If one American is killed, I will hold Iran responsible. Think it over.”

According to an article by the Freedom Forum Institute, a website that educates the American Public on civil rights issues and the government, his threats to Iran and their “health, are a direct violation of the rights stated in the First Amendment. Sadly, former President Trump did not violate the First Amendment once, but twice, and against his own citizens. 

On May 29, 2020 days after the horrible death of George Floyd the President tweeted a threatening and disturbing message: “…These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

This violent and alarming tweet violates the First Amendment again, as not only is he threatening those in other countries, but now he is threatening those in his own country who he swore to protect.

Considering the content of his tweets, the outcomes of his political rallies, and the overall public opinion of him, it is clear that his character and actions against Americans and non-Americans alike are in direct violation of the Constitution and are in violation of the First Amendment. The removal of Trump from many social media platforms has inspired an important discussion that aims to reveal hateful and dangerous words, while also inspiring concern within the hearts of American people that their rights may be removed or tampered with. I hope for the sake of the American people we can band together, whilst learning that our words have weight and we must treat them as such.