There’s a lot of confusion about how the First Amendment works. One such misconception goes that any owner of a private internet platform who boots you off that private internet platform is somehow guilty of violating your right to free speech. This is nonsense of course. Freedom from speech is every bit as sacred a right as freedom of speech. If you don’t like what someone is saying to you and your guests inside your own private house you can boot them the hell out and slam the door any time you please. You don’t even need to be fair or consistent about it.
Most of you get this because you’re Palmer Report readers and you’re smarter than the average person on the internet. It should come as no surprise to you, therefore, that Donald Trump Jr. does not get this, and he’s started a miniature crusade (on Twitter!) on behalf of the idea that Twitter is unfair and has violated his father’s right to free speech by closing his (Senior’s) account.
Like his father, despite four years of practice and the best legal resources in the world at his beck and call, Junior is confused about how government and private industry work. But Junior isn’t content merely to whine about it, he also needs to bring his deeply held bigotries into the discussion. His arms akimbo jeremiads include a demand to know why the Ayatollah has multiple Twitter accounts and his own father can’t even have one.
The short answer is Twitter is a private company and, within the law, they can do whatever the hell they want. And since all of us who have Twitter accounts exist on Twitter because Twitter makes their servers and resources available to us without cost, we exist on Twitter, as they say in Britain, “at her Majesty’s pleasure.”
The slightly longer answer is that the government may become involved only when free speech is in violation of Federal law. If either entity, Twitter or its users, are found to be plotting the overthrow of the government, or murder, or promoting child pornography, for example, the government may step in. Twitter has to answer to the Feds the same as the rest of us. We are all bound by the same laws.
But until then, Twitter is de man, and if you don’t like it then find another platform. Or start your own. If you are in violation of their terms of service they can boot you out any time they want and for any reason.
In fact, Twitter doesn’t even need to be fair or consistent about it. For years Twitter let Donald Trump use his status and influence to promote messages and ideas that Twitter wouldn’t let most ordinary users get away with. Donald Trump’s Twitter rants may even have indirectly caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, for example, by the spread of Trump’s anti-science ignorance about the global pandemic.
That is the point at which Twitter and I part moral company. Legally they’re (probably) off the hook. Morally they suck. The recourse available to me is to leave them, and I can any time I like and for any reason I like. And while I may find their upper management at times morally repugnant, I choose to stay on their platform (@RAHarrington) of my own free will.
Junior’s rant isn’t merely islamophobic, it also has an unhealthy dose of white privilege. Donald Trump enjoyed unprecedented liberty and status on Twitter. He was able for years to use the platform to promote his deeply racist birtherism scam on President Obama. He used it to tell tens of thousands of lies. He used it to send dog whistle racist messages to his bigoted base. He used it to promote anti-science drivel about global warming and about the global pandemic, and falsities about how the 2020 election was “rigged.”
Trump used Twitter to punish people he didn’t like through stochastic terrorism. For example, Trump’s hateful tweets about Colonel Alexander Vindman and Dr. Fiona Hill caused them to receive numerous death threats and put them and their families in fear for their lives. They were patriots just doing their jobs, and Trump ruined their lives for it. Twitter allowed all of this. I don’t hear any complaints coming from Junior about any of that.
What this loathsome, pissant little animal murderer Don Junior rants about instead is how terribly unfair everything is — for him and his powerful, ersatz billionaire family. Watching him, looking suddenly and shockingly bloated and unhealthy, try to enlist the ire of ordinary Americans on his leaking, sinking ship is pathetic. He is pathetic, and I look forward to the day very soon when he and his whole stinking family sink back into the ooze of irrelevance where they belong and whence they came. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.