Twitter Censorship Hunter Biden Story
- Matt Taibbi, a journalist published Friday new details on Twitter’s content moderation decisions.
- Fox News pundits and Elon Musk referred to the decisions as violations the First Amendment.
- Twitter, as a private company, is free to choose what it publishes and not the government.
Twitter’s suppression a story about Hunter Biden’s laptop has been under scrutiny for the past two years, especially since additional news outlets have verified some aspects of the laptop’s contents. It wasn’t illegal, even if the decision was not correct.
On October 14, 2020 the elections will be held one month ahead of the election. New York PostA story claimed that materials taken from a laptop belonging to Joe Biden’s son Hunter were included in the publication. Twitter quickly followed suit. suppressed the distribution of the storyInitial blocking of users from sharing the link was done to avoid hacking or foreign disinformation campaigns.
Twitter backtracked on its initial response within days after receiving heavy backlash, and former CEO Jack Dorsey and others from the company have said the initial decision to block the story from being shared was wrong. Since the story’s publication, outlets including The New York Times and The Washington Post have confirmed the authenticity of some of the laptop’s contents.
After taking over Twitter in October, Elon Musk promised to release details about the company’s handling of the story. On Friday, Matt Taibbi, an independent journalist, published a lengthy Twitter thread that included internal communications about the decision-making process.
Taibbi also reported that Twitter received and granted requests from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign to remove content. At least some of the posts the Biden campaign requested be removed included nude photos that would have violated Twitter’s terms of service under its non-consensual nudity policy.
Musk, who said this year he voted Republican for the first time, quickly criticized the Biden team.
“Twitter acting by itself to suppress free speech is not a 1st amendment violation, but acting under orders from the government to suppress free speech, with no judicial review, is,” Musk wrote, despite the fact that the Biden campaign was a private entity,And therefore not the government.
But regardless of what Musk or pundits on Fox News assert — or whether or not the decision to suppress the story was right or ethical — Twitter’s actions were not a violation of the First Amendment.
Congress shall make no law…
“The clear answer, the 100 percent clear answer, is no,” Doron Kalir, a professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, told Insider. “Twitter is not a state actorAnd the First Amendment applies only to state actors.”
The actual text of the amendment states it plainly: “Congress shall not make any law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
Congress. Which courts have established extends to the government at all federal, state, and local levels. So whether or not Twitter could violate the First Amendment, depends on whether or not it can be considered the government. But courts across the US have ruled that sites like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook are not state entities. They are independent companies.
Kalir stated, referring to the 2020 case, “Federal courts of the United States have ruled time again, and as recently in 2020, that these digital platforms aren’t state actors, therefore, they aren’t the government, and can be restricted in any way.” Prager University v. Google LLC, in which YouTube was ruled not to be a state actor by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
This means that Twitter did not violate the First Amendment. Instead of Twitter publishing inappropriate content, the private platform was actually exercising its First Amendment rights and making its own decisions on what to publish.
Media outlets can refuse or grant government requests at their discretion.
We know nothing about the requests to remove particular content.
Kalir stated that “Both the Trump White House and the state were asking Twitter for help, and Twitter was not under any obligation to oblige or refuse these requests.”
The White House, unlike the Biden team was a state actor. Kalir pointed out that cooperation between government and media is as old as the government itself. Journalists, news outlets, and other media often rely on government information, sometimes via leaks or anonymous sources.
It may also include requests by state actors to delay publishing a story or withhold names and other information to protect national security or other reasons. Again, outlets can choose to accept or decline such requests.
Kalir explained that at some point the news outlet loses its independent features and becomes the channel for government information and disinformation. Then it is no longer a private newspaper and you could claim that that the First Amendment should also be implicated. However the Twitter case “doesn’t even come close to that line.”
He said that he didn’t know of any precedents in the US in which a court ruled that a newspaper, or media outlet, was acting as an agent of the government.
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