There’s a debate about how far this freedom should go. Liberals, myself included, generally believe that freedom of association shouldn’t trump civil rights law, which is why bakeries shouldn’t be allowed to deny wedding cakes to gay couples. But it seems obvious enough that the Constitution doesn’t compel either individuals or businesses to amplify seditious political propaganda.
Still, the ability of tech companies, acting in loose coordination, to mostly shut up the world’s loudest man is astonishing, and shows the limits of analogies to traditional publishers. It’s true that Trump can, any time he wants, hold a press conference or call into Fox News. But stripping him of access to social media tools available to most other people on earth has diminished him in a way that both impeachment and electoral defeat so far have not.
Social media bans matter because they work. You can see it with villains as diverse as ISIS, Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones. “Their ability to drive the conversation, reach wider audiences for recruitment, and, perhaps most importantly to a lot of these conflict entrepreneurs, to monetize it, is irreparably harmed,” said Peter W. Singer, co-author of “LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media.”