Opinions and Legal Insights

“Time To Mute The President”: Former Twitter and Google Executive Calls For Trump To Be Banned From Social Media Until After The Election

YouTube Screengrab (CNN)

Peter Greenberger, a former Twitter and Google executive, is calling for the social media accounts of President Donald Trump to be shutdown for the remainder of the election. For those of us who have criticized calls for censorship from Democratic leaders for years, the demand is yet another example of the slippery slope of censorship that awaits this country with increasing regulation of speech on social media.

Congressional leaders like House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff have called for labeling and removal of material with some members directly threatening a legislative crackdown. Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for resisting speech monitoring and censorship as a matter of free speech. Pelosi lashed out that those who want to preserve a free speech zone are “all about making money,” ignoring free speech advocates who have no financial interest in these companies. Joe Biden has demanded that prior Trump criticism of mail-in voting be stripped from the Internet and social media. This is an effort to enlist companies like Twitter and Facebook to regulate political speech.
And it is increasing succeeding.
The recent move against the Hunter Biden story is an example of how these companies have been used to inhibit access to stories that are harmful to Joe Biden or beneficial to Donald Trump. Yesterday, the FBI reportedly confirmed that it has the Biden laptop and that it does not believe that the material on the laptop is Russian disinformation. Previously, the Director of National Intelligence criticized Schiff for declaring that the laptop was clearly Russian disinformation and said that Congress has received no such intelligence.
Despite the recent abusive act by Twitter, Greenberger is demanding that these companies go even further to ban all access of Trump to social media. Presumably, Greenberger would eventually ban surrogates who convey Trump’s views or comments.
CNN considered Greenberger’s proposal credible enough to give him an entire segment with Jake Tapper who observed that the suggestion is pretty “extreme.” Greenberger however did not flinch in calling for censorship of political speech:
“I agree, it is, and extreme times demand extreme suggestions. I did not come to this opinion lightly. I believe that the tech companies, generally, have a responsibility to be neutral. I think in the case of Twitter specifically, it’s been a great champion of the democratization of information as well as a strong supporter of freedom of expression. However, we are in a unique, and, I believe, a fraught moment in time with a president who is desperate and he’s facing a very difficult situation. I think the time is to mute the president, temporarily, while votes are being cast right now and until the winner is decided.”

It is certainly comforting to know that Greenberger is not gutting free speech “lightly.” However, the most telling statement is his reference to the “democratization of information” which appears to mean the control of the majority over the speech of the minority.  It shows how democracy can be easily confused with tyranny. The difference is that this censorship is being meted out by private companies at the behest of democratic leaders.

Like every censor in history, Greenberger wraps himself in the cloak of certainty and righteousness. By declaring the President’s political views to be “misinformation,” he claims license to “turn[] off some of the key engagement features of the platform in order to slow down the cause of misinformation.”

This is all of course to protect the public from information that it should not read, according to Greenberger and the social media companies.  The silence or even support of many on the left on such censorship calls is chilling. Free speech is now often portrayed as a danger to democracy as opposed to the very right guaranteed in a democratic system of governance. Greenberger is the cheerful face of censorship, thrilling a CNN audience with the idea of removing an unpopular president from social media platforms. His extremism is not nearly as unnerving as the fact that such proposals are now deemed plausible or possible.