Except booting Trump off social media and sweeping away the most violent and vitriolic of his followers shouldn’t have been hard at all. Terms of service aren’t suicide pacts. And the president’s reckless behavior was threatening to take the nation further down a dark and dangerous path. What really made these decisions by Facebook, Twitter, and other social media firms so difficult was knowing that their unprecedented actions would unleash a tsunami of right-wing attacks against them, attacks supported by Republicans in Washington with calls for antitrust measures or new regulations. Indeed, there may be no issue about which GOP elected officials and their voters are more in sync than the notion Big Tech is out to get them.
But to believe that paranoid story is to also redefine what it means to be a conservative and Republican. I consider myself a pro-market, techno-optimist political conservative. And I have tweeted many thousands of times since 2008. I have often attacked the ideas and public policies — ObamaCare, tax hikes, Medicare-for-all — of Democrats and progressives. I have broadly supported the ideas and policies — lower taxes, lighter regulation, entitlement reform — of Republicans and the right. And in all that time, I’ve never had a problem with a single tweet. So I feel pretty confident in saying that if a self-identifying “conservative” in 2021 is tweeting a lot about the Trump tax cuts, China tariffs, and the need to limit immigration from non-white-majority countries, it’s probably not those first two causing them problems with Twitter. Or maybe it’s the tweets or Facebook postings about how armed patriots must cleanse Washington of the satanic cabal that stole the election from Trump and then hang the perpetrators. What social media companies are intolerant of is violent, hateful speech, not conservative speech — properly understood.