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Suspended social media accounts not a First Amendment issue

Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 8:10 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - There’s been an outcry over suspended social media accounts including President Trump’s, but UNL law professors said it’s not a first amendment violation. That’s because, in this case, social media companies are private companies.

UNL Law professor Eric Berger said, “What it really protects is against governmental infringement of free speech”.

Berger said many social media outlets have policed posts on their platforms, but very loosely to this point. He said the riots at the U.S. Capitol were likely the last straw showing everyone how dangerous speech can be today.

While the constitution isn’t the issue at hand, Berger said the power of social media outlets could be.

“Just because the first amendment doesn’t apply to private actors,” Berger said. “Does not necessarily mean there might not be problems with these companies having actors decide what speech to allow and what speech not to allow.”

Since the U.S. Capitol riots, many people, including President Trump, have lost access to their social media accounts.

UNL Law professor Kyle Langvardt said, “That was appropriate. It was completely appropriate. This was a desperate situation.”

Langvardt said free speech moves much faster now with social media, but some of its dangers can still be regulated.

According to the imminent lawless action, outlined by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brandenburg v. Ohio, speech is not protected by the first amendment if the speech leads to likely and imminently breaking the law.

Langvardt said, “Most defenders of free speech are not comfortable with that idea, but I think if that idea ever applied it’s now.”

He said how far the first amendment reaches constantly changes and last Wednesday’s events at the Capitol will likely lead to another discussion.

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