Did You Know?: Twitter and Freedom of Speech

Twitter, a private company, is not required to follow the guidelines of Freedom of Speech.

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” the Constitution states.

But did their Jan. 8 decision violate the First Amendment in the first place?

On Jan. 8, Twitter permanently suspended the account of former President Donald Trump following the Capitol riots on Jan. 6 “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

Twitter users, including Donald Trump Jr., saw the ban as an attack on First Amendment.

“Free Speech Is Under Attack! Censorship is happening like NEVER before! Don’t let them silence us,” he tweeted.

In the Jan. 8 statement, Twitter mentioned their policy surrounding world leaders stating the leaders are not entirely above the company’s policies. Any account, including the account of a world leader, announcing the clear and direct threat of violence is subject to enforcement action by Twitter.

While the First Amendment protects the Freedom of Speech, it was shown in the 1942 case Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire that words that incite violence are not included. The decision is reflected in Article 2, Section 3, Clause 2 of the amendment, “Fighting Words, Hostile Audiences and True Threats.”

“[I]t is well understood that the right of free speech is not absolute at all times and under all circumstances,” Justice Frank Murphy said. “[Words] which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”

Although Twitter’s decision is protected by Article 2, Section 3, Clause 2 of the First Amendment, private companies like Twitter are not required to follow the First Amendment.