by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
No American, not even the president, has an inherent right to a social-media account. Tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter are free to ban any user they see fit. They’re free to fact-check anyone they want, to create a framework of acceptable speech, and to enforce their policies either consistently or capriciously. They’re free to accuse Donald Trump — and only Trump, if they see fit — of being a liar. They’re free to do all of these things.
Even if they shouldn’t. …
… It’s a mistake for any platform to drop its neutral stance and take on fact-checking duties, a task that’s going to be impossible to accomplish either objectively or effectively. It’s going to corrode trust in the brand, but it won’t change a single mind.
Once Twitter begins tagging some tweets and not others with “what you need to know,” it will be staking out partisan positions. The Trump tweets that precipitated its first election-related fact-check are a good example of this. It would have been far more reasonable for the social-media giant to label Trump’s ugly and libelous tweets about Joe Scarborough as misleading. Instead, Twitter decided to inaugurate its policy by alleging that Trump had dishonestly claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to “a Rigged Election.”
Even if this contention were entirely baseless, it would be as untrue as saying Russia rigged the election — a claim that politicians such as Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi, along with most major media outlets, have been making for years. But while the president’s rhetoric about voting is debatable, it is also well within the normal parameters of contemporary political discourse.
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