Trump’s Expulsion Prompts Debate on Social Media Communication

American social media heavyweights like Twitter have suspended U.S. President Donald Trump’s accounts. They judged that his supporters gathered at the Capitol, creating an incident that produced casualties, due to his messages, and that he might incite further violence.

It is out of the question for a democratically chosen leader to make posts that incite violence, so for multiple companies to take the step of closing his accounts is an appropriate judgment. On the other hand, social media is an important information infrastructure underpinning modern society. The debate over how to maintain the balance between freedom of online expression and civic duty should be accelerated.

Twitter permanently canceled Trump’s account on Jan. 8. Facebook also took measures to stop his use. Parler, a new social media service that barely interferes with its posts, was driven to suspend its service when Amazon and others cut off system support.

It is important to guard against posts that incite violence against others and racism, but if intervention is excessive then freedom of speech will be impaired. We need to make rules oriented toward the future that determine what to regulate and to what extent.

Social media companies should first make clear to their users once again which kind of posts will be deleted. On top of that, they should regularly monitor problematic posts, and in the situations when they must be deleted, the reasons should be explained in detail with heightened transparency.

Common rules for social media administration must also be devised. An average of over 1.8 billion people use Facebook alone each day. We are past the point where big social media firms can be trusted to independently evaluate their administration.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised an issue with Twitter’s decision calling it “an action that limits freedom of expression.” In the European Union, rulemaking is proceeding to clarify the social media giants’ responsibility to regulate hate speech and speedily remove it.

In America, the appetite for revising Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which absolves administrators from liability even if they do nothing about their users’ posts, is increasing. In Japan, there is also a movement to regulate fake news and online slander. Perhaps there is a need to devise, via international cooperation, common rules that can serve as a foundation.

Social media is a valuable tool that lets the world’s people exchange their opinions across national borders. We should create a framework that gathers the wisdom of society and safeguards a healthy cyberspace – as well as wards off excessive government regulation.

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