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The Importance, and Incoherence, of Twitters Trump Ban

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After Twitter permanently suspended Donald Trump’s account, earlier this month, the reactions were quick, ubiquitous, and mostly predictable. Many of the takes seemed canned, the way an obituary of a terminally ill celebrity is often pre-written. On the Trump-apologist right, the suspension was denounced as Orwellian tyranny, deep-state collusion, or worse. (Glenn Beck, during a segment on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, compared the Trump ban and other Big Tech crackdowns to “the Germans with the Jews behind the wall. They would put them in the ghetto. Well, this is the digital ghetto.”) Among Trump’s opponents, reactions were more mixed. There was a good amount of gloating—the only thing easier than kicking a man when he’s down is dunking on an account after it’s locked—but the Schadenfreude was tempered with caution. Jameel Jaffer, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia, neatly summarized the tension (in a tweet, naturally): “It’s coherent—and in my view absolutely appropriate—to believe both that (i) the social media companies were right to suspend Trump’s accounts last week; and (ii) the companies’ immense power over public discourse is a problem for democracy.” In another tweet, he added, “The First Amendment question is easy. All the other questions are hard.”

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