Justice Clarence Thomas Suggested Social Media Companies May Not Get All First Amendment Freedoms
Photo by dole777 via Unsplash
Former President Donald Trump was banned from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook over claims he incited violence prior to and during the U.S. Capitol insurrection in January. Facebook reaffirmed their decision last week citing a permanent ban after the social media platform deleted posts Trump’s voice appeared in.
Now, Justice Clarence Thomas is discussing current protections for big tech companies and their power to silence users across their platforms.
Thomas focused on Section 230 of Communications Decency Act and said, “applying old doctrines to new digital platforms is rarely straightforward.”
“As Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms.”
“The extent to which that power matters for purposes of the First Amendment and the extent to which that power could lawfully be modified raise interesting and important questions,” Thomas said.
While Thomas noted that these companies are public, he singled out Mark Zuckerberg as the sole owner of Facebook and Larry Page and Sergey Brin as the owners of Google.
“Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors,” Thomas said.
“Also unprecedented, however, is control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties. We will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.”
Thomas’s opinion gives an opening for Congress to step in and discuss whether platforms like Facebook and Twitter should be considered common carriers. This change would require the sites to allow any posts by any users, regardless of their personal views.