On January 11th, 2021, FOX 32 interviewed social media attorney, Daliah Saper, about account bans by the world’s largest tech and social media companies following violent riots at the nation’s capital. Twitter and Facebook issued permanent bans on the accounts of President Trump and groups calling for violent protests. Shortly thereafter, Google and Apple removed social media platform Parler from their app stores and Amazon withdrew its web-hosting services from the platform. Parler sued Amazon on Monday.
Daliah explained that both individuals and companies like Parler are afforded the freedom to publish content and views, no matter how offensive or hateful. While the government cannot restrict this sort of publishing, there are currently no legal grounds to stop private companies like Amazon from removing content from their platforms or to cease providing services at their own discretion.
Daliah also explained that under Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act, Amazon, Parler and other social media sites have legal immunity for content posted on their platforms or any resulting actions of their users as long as they do not curate content or perform editorial functions. Therefore, controversy persists and supporters of the President and Parler claim that the tech companies’ permanent bans on social media accounts and removal of the app are a threat to Free Speech and should result in an erosion of their legal immunity under the law. In contrast, critics on the left remain steadfast in their view that social media platforms have a public responsibility to remove hateful speech that is likely to incite violence. Both sides have issues with the current state of the law, and the debate about social media platforms’ rights and responsibilities will likely remain a hot button topic in the near future.