For days, Twitter blocked an article critical of President Donald Trump’s contender, Joe Biden and by doing so, demonstrated its power in a clumsy way. By now, everybody knows: this is about who is allowed to distribute journalism.
For several days this week, Twitter blocked an article from The New York Post that heavily criticized Joe Biden and his son Hunter. In the United States, Twitter has more than 60 million users and is over there, as well as here in Germany, a kind of multiplier for multipliers — meaning, many journalists and politicians read and further spread what they find on there. Content that is blocked on the platform won’t reach millions of people.
Ultimately, Twitter should be thanked. The corporation has, in a clumsy and radical fashion, demonstrated its influence on the clash of opinions, such that everybody should be able to realize — this is not about Trump or Biden or about censoring content that clearly violates criminal law (like denial of the Holocaust) or youth protection (like pornography). This is about who is allowed to distribute journalism. Twitter’s intervention is most likely protected by the United States Constitution. Yet, it violates fundamental principles of Western societies.
Certainly, Twitter, as well as Facebook, is facing tough challenges. Conspiracy nonsense, threats, and fake news are presented alongside legitimate news on the internet. This causes problems that need to be addressed, albeit with sound judgment and a sense of responsibility. Freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of our society. But Twitter and Facebook don’t care about that.
If the companies weren’t virtual platforms but physical locations, they would only be selling newspapers whose content they agreed with. At the same time though, they’d own 99% of all sales outlets, supermarkets, kiosks, bakeries. The term “censorship” needs to be handled with care, as it assumes that there is a governmental, or at least central, agency suppressing opinions — and because censorship is generally characteristic of a dictatorship, not a liberal democracy like the one we live in. However, the platforms, due to their market power and absolute ignorance of freedom of press and speech, are well on their way to justifying the use of this term.