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Trump's upheld ban from Facebook renews debate on social media use and free speech

Former President Trump will have to continue relying on written statements and media appearances after Facebook’s oversight board upheld his ban from the platform.

Posted: May 5, 2021 5:44 PM

KADN - Former President Trump will have to continue relying on written statements and media appearances after Facebook’s oversight board upheld his ban from the platform.

The decision has renewed the debate on the power of tech companies and how much they can control on posts on their platforms. Does the first amendment protect your right to free speech when using social media platforms? It’s a question that people are divided about.

According to a recent Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, 54% of Americans believe lawmakers should pass legislation governing how social media platforms oversee posted content. Communications professor Dr. William R. Davie says the first amendment bars the government from creating laws that restrict free speech.

"We need to begin with the idea that the first amendment is a ball and chain, not on private property or private ownership. It is a restraint on the government. Congress shall make no law," said Davie.

Davie says the issue is whether social media outlets become public forums when prominent public officials like former President Trump use them.

"But here’s the problem, on private property, when we have a public official speaking, there are those in government who say well that is no longer a private forum, that’s a designated public forum," Davie said.

A public forum would mean those officials would have certain free speech protections. Chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, Louis Gurvich says it’s about fairness.

"It’s not even principally a matter of whether you agree or disagree with the person who said them or what was said. It’s the clear matter that they have the right to say them within very very broad limits," Gurvich said.

Gurvich says Trump being barred from returning to Facebook could affect his plans for another presidential run but adds that starting his own social media platform could offset that.

"It would radically impact his ability to raise funds. The fact that he has the wherewithal and ability to start his own social media platform, I can’t say that I blame him under the circumstances for doing exactly that," he said.

So does the first amendment protect your right to free speech on social media platforms? Well it may come down to your status as a public official or an everyday citizen. Something Gurvich says we may not have the answer to for a long time.

Facebook’s oversight board, which acts as a quasi-court over the company’s content decisions, gave Facebook six months to make its final decision on President Trump’s account status.

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