Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) criticized Twitter for permanently banning former President Trump from its platform, saying he doesn’t feel “particularly comfortable” with the censorship move and raised concerns that the political muzzling would definitely continue to someone who has a “very different political point of view.”
In an interview with New York Times podcast “The Ezra Klein Show,” Sanders was asked if there “truth to the critique that liberals have become too censorious.”
Sanders denounced Trump in his usual description of the former president, responding he is a “bad news guy,” before railing against Twitter for its ban move.
“Look, you have a former president in Trump, who is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, a pathological liar, an authoritarian, somebody who doesn’t believe in the rule of law,” Sanders said. “This is a bad news guy.
“But if you’re asking me, do I feel particularly comfortable that the president, the then president of the United States could not express his views on Twitter? I don’t feel comfortable about it,” he added.
The self-proclaimed Democratic socialist said he does worry about conspiracy theories “traveling all over this country” online, but admitted he wasn’t sure how to strike “the balance” between taking action against online hate and censorship.
“Now, I don’t know what the answer is. Do you want to hate speech and conspiracy theories traveling all over this country? No. Do you want the internet to be used for authoritarian purposes and insurrection, if you like? No, you don’t. So how do you balance that? I don’t know, but it is an issue that we have got to be thinking about,” Sanders said.
Sanders, a frequent critic of big tech and corporations, said he didn’t like that a “handful of high-tech people” wields so much power, arguing the need to “preserve First Amendment rights.”
“Because of anybody who thinks yesterday, it was Donald Trump who was banned, and tomorrow it could be somebody else who has a very different point of view,” Sanders said. “So I don’t like giving that much power to a handful of high tech people, but the devil is obviously in the details and it’s something we’re going to have to think long and hard on, and that is how you preserve First Amendment rights without moving this country into a big lie mentality and conspiracy theories.”
During the Democratic presidential primary debate in July 2019, Sanders vowed antitrust enforcement if elected president, saying he would “absolutely” look to break up big tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon. The Vermont senator singled out Facebook in particular for having “incredible power over the economy, over the political life of this country in a very dangerous sense.”
After the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, Twitter two days later booted Trump off their platform. In a tweet, the social media stated that “after close review of recent Tweets,” the former president’s account was suspended permanently “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
The unprecedented step of banning a sitting president, who at that time had 89 million followers was a decision Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey expressed regret in “having to take these actions.” In a series of tweets, Dorsey defended his company’s move but warned that such a move will set a “dangerous” precedent by empowering an “individual or corporation” on who can exercise their First Amendment rights.
“Having to take these actions to fragment the public conversation. They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation,” Dorsey tweeted.
In an interview last month, Twitter’s chief financial officer, Ned Segal, said Trump’s account is beyond online redemption in the eyes of Twitter, clarifying that the ban imposed on the former president is permanent and would not be permitted back on the one-sided platform, even if he decides to make a comeback to run for office again in 2024.
“The way our policies work, when you’re removed from the platform, you’re removed from the platform whether you’re a commentator, you’re a CFO or you are a former or current public official,” Segal said in a CNBC interview with Squawk Box on February 10. “He was removed when he was president, and there’d be no difference for anybody who was a public official once they’ve been removed from the service.”
Trump senior adviser Jason Miller revealed Sunday to Fox News that the former president is set to make a return to social media within the next “two or three months” with “his own platform.” The former President confirmed the news but said he enjoys emailing “more elegant” press releases than using Twitter to get his message out.
“I’m doing things having to do with putting our own platform out there that you’ll be hearing about soon,” Trump said, appearing on ‘The Truth with Lisa Boothe’ Monday. “I’m doing, I think and you just alluded to it, I do press releases. And frankly, they’re more elegant than tweeting, as the expression goes, they’re really much more elegant and the word is getting out. I like this better than Twitter. Actually, they did us a favor, this is better.”
The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google will face a new set of grilling by Congress on Thursday, testifying before a joint hearing before two House Energy and Commerce subcommittees designed to address the companies’ role in the proliferation of misinformation online.