Leader: The Big Tech reckoning

From New Statesman:

After Donald Trump lost the US presidency last year, he retained the consolation prize of his Twitter account. Commentators debated how Mr Trump would seek to profit from the 88 million followers he had accumulated: a new TV career or another presidential bid? Yet on 8 January, he lost his cherished platform after he was permanently suspended by Twitter because of “the risk of further incitement of violence”. Two days earlier a rabble of Trump fanatics, conspiracy theorists and white supremacists had stormed the US Capitol, resulting in five deaths. In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Trump told the mob, “We love you” and later tweeted: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide victory is so viciously & unceremoniously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”

Twitter’s intervention was praised by some commentators but the timing was convenient: Mr Trump had only 11 days left in office when he was suspended. The social media site, which profited for years from the president’s incendiary tweets, thus minimised the risk of retaliatory action.

Mr Trump’s suspension raises more profound questions. By barring the president, Twitter acted as a publisher, making an editorial judgement about the content hosted on its platform. Yet it is precisely this status that the social media firms have long eschewed. Under Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act, they are unaccountable for the content that is published on their platforms. Though they have a duty to remove any posts that violate federal criminal laws, they cannot be sued for libel and are not regulated in the manner of publishers. That is surely wrong.

More here.