I Am Uninterested in Pearl-clutching

Anyone who thinks Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, etc. wanted to ban Donald Trump and other accounts promoting violent sedition from their platforms because these companies, among the largest in the world, are left-wing political partisans aimed at attacking conservatism is not seeing things straight. They have had years to ban him, and besides, having Mr. Trump and others inflaming passions on the internet is good for business. Anyway, in the long run, these companies want to host as much of the social media “conversation” as they can—the last thing they want, it seems to me, is to prompt the creation of an alternate social media ecosystem.

So why did they act now? I think the answer is pretty obvious. They have a very good idea of what is being discussed on their platforms, and they could see that their platforms were being used by people engaged in a seditious conspiracy who had imminent plans that put the government of the United States at serious risk. It was an emergency move, one they would have preferred not to make.

This is why I don’t have the time of day for pearl clutching. I am not talking about the uninformed people who think that there is a First Amendment issue here. I am talking about “what-aboutism” (“I am leaving Twitter because it banned Trump but not World Leader X, who does not pose an imminent threat to the United States”) and about “1984-ism” (“By banning seditious conspiracy from its platform, Twitter is dropping the views of millions of Americans down the memory hole. What’s next?”) Give me a break.

I also don’t have the time of day for Republicans who say we need national unity and that the actions of the social media and internet companies, or the upcoming second impeachment of Trump, divide us. Unity begins with the truth. You can’t lie and lie to your constituents, convince them the lies are true, persuade some of them to engage in sedition based on the lies, and then call for unity when all responsible parties inside and outside the government respond as the circumstances require.

I have the sense that many people abroad don’t fully appreciate the risk to the country at the moment. There are millions of armed people in this country who have believed the most absurd lies from their political leaders and who want to take action based on their lies. Aside from a handful of senators, no one on the Republican side seems that concerned, even though the Republicans in Congress just lived through a siege in the Capitol in which several people died and armed seditionists with the evident intent to kill or kidnap Congressional leaders, including Republicans, almost got their way. It would be a mistake to underestimate the resolve of (most of) the American people—and American businesses and institutions—to punish the conspirators so that this never happens again and to preserve our form of government. If you are complaining this week about social media censorship, do not expect sympathy. If you have a law review article or an op-ed in mind critiquing how the social media companies have made their decisions in the last few days, save it.

One response to “I Am Uninterested in Pearl-clutching”

  1. hardreaders

    I can get on board with all this for the most part. The irony of those who mindlessly worship the “free enterprise” system throwing a massive tantrum when that system doesn’t give them special treatment is, of course, both overwhelming and delectable.

    On that same note, I tend to be cynical about these things, so–and maybe this was already implied in your post–I view the social media (SM) companies’ moves as mostly CYA. Yes, as you said, losing these users will hurt business to some extent. But I suspect they can weather that minor storm just fine, given how immense these companies are.

    And if they didn’t do anything by this point, they would be on the hook for major criticism, and even significant potential liability. So I would expect they just did a standard cost-benefit analysis and arrived at the obvious conclusion.

    Finally, given that Ds are in ascendance–that’s especially clear now after the GA runoffs–why wouldn’t the companies want to earn some brownie points from Ds for doing what was in the companies’ own interest anyway? If they are in the Ds’ good graces, that makes it easier to head off or at least water down any regulation that might be in the offing. I know some Ds–including Biden himself–have also made rumblings about regulation. (FWIW, my take is there may be some room for adjustments in this field, but it’s sort of beyond may grade and what I would really like to see is data privacy legislation; the latter is probably doubtful though…)

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