“Free speech is dead and controlled by leftist overlords.” Thus the shrill voice of Donald Trump Jr. informed those who were prepared to listen to him. I know, I know you are saying why would anybody listen to a junior Donald Trump? It’s akin to listening to a fence post although the latter serves a very real and important function that cannot be attributed to the former.
There is no legal responsibility for any privately-owned platform to host anybody. Indeed there is a strong argument that social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have a duty of care to ensure that what they allow on their platforms – dare I say what they publish – should be moderated to standards generally accepted within our community.
Trump senior has used Twitter constantly for four years to peddle his misinformation and lies and so far he has been able to get away with it. But when he uses a privately owned social media platforms to whip up hatred, perpetuating unfounded claims of a stolen election with no supporting evidence, that’s another matter entirely.
In weighing up the rights and wrongs of shutting down Trump’s Twitter feed I thought of how it was before these platforms were created. In those days, if we had something to say we would write to out local newspaper and take our chances on being published. If you live in Queensland as I do, you would write to a News Corporation publication as there are no others.
But should you want to write a critique of an article by Andrew Bolt for lack of balance or Miranda Devine for lack of objectivity or accuracy that would immediately go into the bin at News Corporation offices.
So, freedom of speech it seems to me is very much in the eye of the beholder. Rupert is evidently very much in favour of Donald Trump’s rights to speak freely and without censure. The memo it seems went out to his editors, print and online, that he was aghast that the leader of the free world should be so arbitrarily shut down by Twitter and Facebook. Sky-after-Dark went off like the proverbial ‘frog in a sock’ to support Donald’s right to his constitutionally guaranteed freedom to speak his mind. But they seem to forget that we probably all agree with the right of the president to speak on matters of global and national importance but that doesn’t include the right to incite violence or to tell lies.
If he wants to communicate with the world he merely has to call a press conference with the White House press pack in attendance and it would – at least for the next ten days – be considered by all the major networks for national and global coverage, but he would be questioned: and that’s as it should be.
In my view Twitter and Facebook have every right, indeed a duty to ensure that their platforms are suitably moderated – just a pity they didn’t think about it earlier.
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