Marketing expert, professor share opinions on social media’s response to Capitol riots

Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 7:38 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Following last week’s deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol, the list continues to grow of social media companies and businesses banning President Donald Trump from their platforms.

Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of Americans to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction. However, does that apply to social media as well?

It started with Twitter, and now, at least 14 social media platforms and companies have banned President Donald Trump, in some form.

It’s something ECU Professor John Howard says he has never seen throughout history.

“They don’t feel they can let the president post what he’s been posting on his account, because it may then lead Twitter to appear to be liable or encouraging the kind of behaviors that many people fear the president is inciting,” Howard said.

Howard says the president still has other outlets.

“He can still talk. He can still speak. What is profound about this is the private industry has stepped in and said, in one variety or another, ‘We aren’t comfortable with this, so we don’t want the president’s voice to be heard on our platform,’” Howard said.

America has been deemed “the land of the free,” and that includes freedom of speech, our First Amendment. However, Howard says these rights are bound by the legal system.

“We can’t incite violence,” Howard said, “Certain kinds of threats, yelling ‘fire’ in a movie theater—all those things are still restricted. However, the First Amendment does not protect private organizations in the same way.”

Companies like Amazon have removed apps, such as Parler, due to violent content surrounding the riots at the U.S. Capitol. And Shopify has followed suit with their merchandise.

ECU marketing professor Diana Haytko says this is nothing new.

“There are a number of times in history that companies have backed off companies because it damages their brand,” Haytko said.

Still, Haytko says some of these companies have profited off of the sensationalism for years.

“And, yes, they made a ton of money, but they’re seeing the problems of how they could lose a ton of money now,” Said Haytko.

And as far as the future, Haytko says to expect more to come.

“I think the list will grow bigger and bigger. And I think it will go broader,” Haytko said.

And Howard also predicts the users of Parler and other banned apps will just sign up for other apps that offer the same services. And that social media platform will fill the void.

In response, President Trump tweeted from the @POTUS account: “As I have been saying for a long time, Twitter has gone further and further in banning free speech.” He continues, “Twitter employees have coordinated with the Democrats and radical Left in removing my account from their platform, to silence me.”

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