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'Free Speech Versus Free Enterprise': Debate Continues After Social Media Companies Ban Trump

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Following last Wednesday's deadly siege — in which a mob incited by President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building — social media companies took swift action against the president.

Donald Trump's Twitter Account Suspended
Donald Trump's Twitter account displayed on a phone screen and Twitter logo in the background are seen in this illustration photo taken in Poland on January 9, 2021. Twitter suspended Donald Trump's account because of violating the app rules. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Twitter ended his 12-year-run on the platform, cutting him off from his nearly 89 million followers. His Facebook and Instagram accounts have also been suspended until at least Inauguration Day.

"Most of the rules that govern the internet were written 25 years ago," Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, said. "And we've been very public in not just saying we'll participate in legislation, but we're calling for regulation. We do think the internet needs new regulation."

Sandberg said groups like QAnon, the Proud Boys and Stop the Steal had already been banned from the platform for trying to organize violent protests.

"This is something of a debate about free speech versus free enterprise," Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School who once served at U.S. Department of Justice, said. "But the speech we get from the big social media companies is privately facilitated. It's a company deciding what it wants you to do."

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Early Monday morning, social media app Parler went offline after Amazon said it would not longer host the site that has allowed conspiracy theories to go unchecked on its computing services. Over the weekend, Apple and Google removed the app from their stores.

Levitt said that social media platforms have conduct rules that users agree to when they sign onto the platform, but that does not mean their constitutional rights are being violated.

"The First Amendment stops, for example, the government from banning your speech, from fining you because of speech, from putting you in jail because of speech," he said. "It doesn't force a private company to carry your speech."

The American Civil Liberties Union said it understood the desire to permanently suspend Trump for his messages undermining the November election, but said that it was concerned about private citizens banned from the service who have no other platform.

"President Trump can turn to his press team or Fox News to communicate with the public, but others — like the many Black, Brown, and LGBTQ activists who have been censored by social media companies — will not have that luxury."

Parler's founder said the app would shut down for about a week as the company rebuilds the service from scratch and said that the company would file suit against Amazon, accusing it of breaking antitrust laws.

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