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Charlie Kirk Suggests Supreme Court Should Overturn Facebook Trump Ban

Matthew Koehler Matthew Koehler
7th May 2021
Charlie Kirk Suggests Supreme Court Should Overturn Facebook Trump Ban
Facebook is a privately-owned company (Getty Images).

The Claim

The Supreme Court can overrule a private social media company's decision to permanently ban a private citizen from using its platform.

Emerging story

On Wednesday, May 5, a ruling from Facebook's Oversight Board came out detailing a continued ban of former president Donald Trump from its platform. According to the Washington Post, the ruling stated that Mr. Trump's comments and postings during the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol “created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible." Shortly thereafter, Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, tweeted out that the Supreme Court should overturn the ruling. 

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Twitter users rapidly took to the platform to point out why Kirk was wrong about the Supreme Court potentially intervening in the ruling, while others defended his tweet. 

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Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar looked into Charlie Kirk's tweet and found the suggestion that the Supreme Court can look into, or overturn, the ruling to be inaccurate. 

Facebook is a private company that can set its own standards and policies and is not subject to judicial overview of its decisions. This is true even as it applies to the First Amendment because social media platforms are "not arms of the government." Furthermore, the First Amendment does not apply to hate speech, for example, or "speech intended to incite or produce violence and lawless action." 

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On Wednesday, Facebook's Oversight Board released a statement detailing their findings and reasons for upholding the temporary ban on Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts. They justified their decisions by stating:  

“[In] maintaining an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud and persistent calls to action, Mr. Trump created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible. At the time of Mr. Trump’s posts, there was a clear, immediate risk of harm and his words of support for those involved in the riots legitimized their violent actions. As president, Mr. Trump had a high level of influence. The reach of his posts was large, with 35 million followers on Facebook and 24 million on Instagram.”

The ruling wasn't all against Trump, per se, and the Board accused Facebook of not following its own standards. In a blogpost, the Law & Crime blog said that the Board also "rebuked Facebook for failing to adhere to a standardized set of rules and procedures in imposing an 'arbitrary' and 'indefinite' suspension" and gave the company six months to clarify their ban. They basically sent the decision back to Facebook. 

The Overview Board was created to be an independent and neutral arbiter of Facebook's decisions on moderating content and, while its decisions are not technically binding, Facebook has deferred to their decisions. Questions remain, however, as to whether a review board appointed and paid for by the same corporation can be a neutral arbiter of fairness in these matters. 

In a statement, the former president blasted the social media giants, calling their behavior a "total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country." He also accused them of limiting free speech and said they "must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process."

Currently, Trump remains either temporarily or permanently banned from a range of social media outlets, including Twitter (permanent), YouTube (pending further review), Instagram (indefinitely pending review), and others. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki stated in early March that the platform "will lift the suspension of the Donald Trump channel when we determine that the risk of violence has decreased." 

Large tech companies, most notably the big social media platforms, have come under fire in recent years from those across the political spectrum for the undue influence they hold over public discourse in America. Many conservatives have accused big tech companies of infringing on the First Amendment after their own prominent members have been suspended or banned for posting harmful content and/or dangerous misinformation. And, the party that stereotypically aligns itself with the principles of free market capitalism now wants the government to step in and regulate a company that is, in effect, responding to market pressures. 

Debates about freedom of speech and the power big tech companies have to regulate it aside, a private company's decision to ban an individual user for violating its Terms of Service (TOS) remains in that company's sole jurisdiction with current laws. It is for this reason Misbar has deemed this Twitter suggestion to be misleading. 

Misbar’s Classification


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