Due to Donald Trump being removed from virtually all social media platforms, people on the political left and right have begun to question if this was an affront to his First Amendment rights, specifically, the right to free speech.
I’m not American but in the past I have marveled at how much Americans are taught about their Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Currently, I’m marveling how much they have forgotten.
Freedom of expression is also an international human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). There was talk of the U.S. wanting to leave the United Nations but that hasn’t happened, and so they’re still signed off on the UDHR’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Trump’s expulsion from social media has gripped the fearful minds of many into thinking their opinions may lead to their own removal from the Internet. But first, let’s go over what the laws state.
The First Amendment states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights from the UDHR states:
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
The third paragraph of Article 19 is very important because it highlights that while freedom of speech (or expression) is a basic and universal human right, it is not an absolute right. There are “certain restrictions” because respecting one’s fellow man is important, as is national security.
You might say, “Well, those are the international laws. Only international entities can judge Trump or anybody else on their tweets. The American laws have nothing to say on this.”
That’s where you’re wrong. In Gertz vs. Robert Welch Inc. (1974), a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional value in falsehoods. This is because free speech isn’t an absolute right. And when you think about it, it’s kind of obvious that it could never be an absolute right.
If one was truly free to say literally anything, why is slander and defamation illegal? Why is false advertising illegal? Heck, why is making a threat to kill, kidnap or harm the President of the United States illegal?
Because freedom of speech/expression is a right that carries certain responsibilities. Lawmakers and philosophers have known this ever since they began pondering what it means for one to express oneself.
To be honest, it wasn’t even necessary for me to use the laws of the land to illustrate why Trump’s ban shouldn’t worry anyone.
People have been calling for social media CEOs to cancel his accounts and I’m glad they didn’t. They showed restraint because they knew that people would cry, “Free speech is under attack!”
And yet, even his tweets that led to an attempted insurrection and deaths of civilians were still not enough for people. They still cried, “Free speech is under attack!”
This is pretty ironic for me. The guy states that the election was stolen from him and asks the various courts to look into it. They look into it and found no evidence of voter fraud. Yet he continued to claim that the election was stolen from him.
So let me get this straight. Over 159 million Americans voted, over 159 million Americans expressed their freedom of speech by stating who they wanted as President. Joe Biden won. If Trump were to say that he (Trump) won, is Trump not ignoring and undermining the 81 million people who voted for Biden?
Isn’t Trump suppressing the free speech of the majority of the voters? Yes, he is.
But somehow this does not come up in the debate of freedom of speech. You have a guy who is taking a dump on your freedom of speech, but people are worried that Twitter and Facebook are too trigger-happy.
The guy incited violence and an attempted coup. People died due to his rhetoric. The courts have proved his claims false. How people are still crying for freedom of speech is truly terrifying.
Imagine someone uses their freedom of speech to take away your freedom of speech. How the hell could that possibly be legal? How could anyone think that that’s okay? If you went to court and they upheld that you have no freedom of speech because it was someone’s opinion that you shouldn’t have one, you’re in a kangaroo court.
So there you have it. Trump’s ban from social media apps shouldn’t send you into a spiral. To be honest, and I don’t mean to be offensive if you bought into it, but it highlights a certain level of divorce from reality.
Anchan Preelert, a 65-year-old Thai woman, has been sentenced to over 43 years in prison for speaking out against Thailand’s monarchy. At least 169 people are also facing prison time for the same “crime” of criticizing the government.
Now that is an affront to freedom of speech and definitely something to worry about.
If the social media apps one day decide to purge you from the Internet but you’ve done nothing other than express your opinion, you have the law on your side, domestic and international.
I can certainly defend you there, but I can’t defend the soon-to-be former president.