“Tomorrow It Could Be Somebody Else”: Bernie Sanders Comes Out Against Trump Twitter Ban

Twitter LogoSen Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) came out against the Twitter ban of former president Donald Trump yesterday.  Sanders expressed his discomfort with the role of Big Tech in censorship viewpoints, a sharp departure from his Democratic colleagues who have demanded more such corporate censorship. In an interview on Tuesday with New York Times columnist Ezra Klein, Sanders stated that he didn’t feel “particularly comfortable” with the ban despite his view that Trump is “a racist, sexist, xenophobe, pathological liar, an authoritarian … a bad news guy.” He stated “if you’re asking me do I feel particularly comfortable that the then president of the United States could not express his views on Twitter? I don’t feel comfortable about that.”

I would hope that Sanders would take the same view of a non-sitting president or an average citizen. They should all be able to speak freely. Sanders does not go as far as that “Internet originalist” position, but he at least is recognizing the danger of such censorship. He noted that “we have got to be thinking about, because if anybody who thinks yesterday it was Donald Trump who was banned and tomorrow it could be somebody else who has a very different point of view.” He stated that it is a danger to have a “handful of high tech people” controlling speech in America.

I have long praised Sanders for his principled take on many issues and this dissenting view is most welcomed by those in the free speech community. It is in sharp contrast to his Democratic colleagues who celebrated the ban and called for more censorship. One of the leading voices of censorship in the Senate is Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) chastised Big Tech for waiting so long to issue such bans: “The question isn’t why Facebook & Twitter acted, it’s what took so long & why haven’t others?”

As we have previously discussed, Democrats have abandoned long-held free speech values in favor of corporate censorship. They clearly has a different “comfort zone” than Sanders.  What discomforts many Democratic members is the ability of people to speak freely on these platforms and spread what they view as “disinformation.”

When Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey came before the Senate to apologize for blocking the Hunter Biden story before the election as a mistake, senators pressed him and other Big Tech executive for more censorship.

In that hearing, members like Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., HI) pressed witnesses like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey for assurance that Trump would remain barred from speaking on their platforms: “What are both of you prepared to do regarding Donald Trump’s use of your platforms after he stops being president, will be still be deemed newsworthy and will he still be able to use your platforms to spread misinformation?”

Rather than addressing the dangers of such censoring of news accounts, Senator Chris Coons pressed Dorsey to expand the categories of censored material to prevent people from sharing any views that he considers “climate denialism.” Likewise, Senator Richard Blumenthal seemed to take the opposite meaning from Twitter, admitting that it was wrong to censor the Biden story. Blumenthal said that he was “concerned that both of your companies are, in fact, backsliding or retrenching, that you are failing to take action against dangerous disinformation.” Accordingly, he demanded an answer to this question:

“Will you commit to the same kind of robust content modification playbook in this coming election, including fact checking, labeling, reducing the spread of misinformation, and other steps, even for politicians in the runoff elections ahead?”

“Robust content modification” has a certain appeal, like a type of software upgrade. It is not content modification. It is censorship. If our representatives are going to crackdown on free speech, they should admit to being advocates for censorship. Indeed, leading academics had the integrity recently to declare that they believe that “China is right” about censorship.

Sanders clearly does not believe “China was right,” as least as it applies to a sitting president. Hopefully, Sanders will continue to speak out on free speech and expand on this principled stand to oppose the unrelenting push from Blumenthal and others for corporate controls over speech on the Internet.


91 thoughts on ““Tomorrow It Could Be Somebody Else”: Bernie Sanders Comes Out Against Trump Twitter Ban”

  1. Where was Sanders when this happened? His socialist party benefited from this suppression of speech. Why is he just complaining now?

  2. If Bernie did not pronounce his american language in “turdy turd and a turd” accent then he might have beaten Biden in the primaries and Trump in the general election.
    What do you mean by those quoted words, you might ask. Well. Ask him where Thirty Third Street and Third Avenue are. He will reply: “Aw, turdy turd and a turd.”. That’s his NY accent.
    It don’t sell in da midwest.

  3. You think Turley will ever address the defamation lawsuit against Sidney Powell and her defense that no rational person could have reasonably relied upon her Big Lie that the election was stolen because it was so factually unbelievable so as to amount to a non actionable mere opinion? And yet, it is the same bogus lie undergirding the many Republican State Legislatures’ attempt to eviscerate the election laws to disadvantage Democrats- another momentous development upon which Turley has not seen fit to comment. My guess is that it would not serve the interests of his employer, Fox News, which faces a similar defamation lawsuit and supports the efforts of Republicans…

    1. Feel free to visit ALL of the sites that support your views. You are the kind of guy that only wants to visit “IAGREEWITHYOU,COM”.

    2. Jeffrey, as you will find out, Dominion has far larger problems than Sidney Powell.

      Dominion’s defamation suit is a classic example of a nuisance lawsuit designed to slow down and derail the core legal issues Dominion faces.

      But your useful idiocy is duly noted.

    3. Do Democratic leaders believe that their constituents are so inept that they can’t properly register to vote (which is much easier to do than most transactions with the gov’t)?

    4. JS:

      “You think Turley will ever address the defamation lawsuit against Sidney Powell and her defense that no rational person could have reasonably relied upon her Big Lie that the election was stolen because it was so factually unbelievable so as to amount to a non actionable mere opinion?”
      That’s not her defense at all as we’ve parsed out in other threads, but isn’t believing in delusions your definition of religious imbecility? Careful or you’ll get Gainesville-esque!

  4. These people conveniently all say these things, apologize like Twitter’s Dorsey did, long after when it would be significant. Where was he in October?

  5. The socialist that wants to take away individual and economic freedom from everyone supports saying what you want. But if you do what you want the government he envisions will say hell no.

  6. I fail to see how anyone can support Sec 230, which allows these platforms to moderate users’ dialog without being liable for users’ content.

    You either have active participation or you don’t. If you control the dialog you should be held responsible for the dialog.

    Twitter banned Trump but what about the Looney Tunes who openly stated they would kill Trump supporters or put them in re-education camps? The latter, of course, is impossible as all the available space is currently occupied by the gusher of illegal immigrants unleashed by Biden’s election. Maybe they could do re-education camps by Zoom.

    1. Getting rid of section 230 will do the exact opposite. It will encourage Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc, to ban more people because they would be protecting themselves from litigation by removing any posts from their sites that will expose them to liability.

      Trump got banned after Twitter tolerated constant violations of its policy from Trump. It finally had enough and banned Trump. Twitter is not obligated to carry anyone’s messages at all.

      It has no constitutional requirement to do so. It is not a government institution or a utility. It’s a private company who can dictate the terms and conditions and any user agrees to them. Violate them and you get banned. It’s pretty simple. You don’t want your speech to be “censored” don’t violate the terms and conditions. Even this very blog removes or “censors” speech if it violates its terms and conditions. Turley’s blog should be a complete free for all smorgasbord of any kind of speech, including offensive and vulgar speech. Obviously it doesn’t allow that, the hypocrisy couldn’t be more ironic.

      1. Svelaz, can a private company ban you from riding on their plane or staying at their hotel? If so what are their parameters? Can the Muslim cake maker be forced to cater a Jewish wedding? Can Streisand be forced to sing at Trump’s inaugural?

        To call these platforms private companies is a misnomer and actually a joke. There is a difference between vulgarity, violence and political speech. The Hunter Biden story is a great example of how wrong you are, how hypocritical you are or how naïve you are. Pick one.

        1. Hullboy, your examples involve a lot of apples and oranges comparisons. But in general yes a private company CAN ban you from flying their planes or staying at their hotel. There is no constitutional right to fly or stay at an hotel.

          These platforms ARE private companies. The very fact that every single person who CHOOSES to join these platforms by their own free will. Legally agree to these companies terms and conditions. Anyone accepting these conditions essentially willfully give these companies control over what they can say on THEIR platforms. A very simple concept.

          You’re exactly right that there is a difference between vulgarity, violence, and political speech. However, according to Turley who claims to be an “internet originalist” believes free speech shouldn’t be censored for whatever reason. The best defense against vulgarity, violence, and political speech is MORE speech. The problem here is that no single company is constitutionally obligated to carry anyone’s messages or speech. Trump complaining about Twitter not posting his messages is not a violation of his 1st amendment rights. He can still send out his messages in many other different ways besides Twitter. He can create his own platform of media outlet.

      2. If they got rid of 230 and dropped the hammer down hard then they’d lose a boatload of customers.

        Yes they are private entities and can restrict what they want, but they want that privilege of authority without taking any responsibility for exercising it.

        1. Michael, getting rid of section 230 will amplify these companies incentives to ban more people. To prevent liability they would rather ban people than get in trouble for what people say on THEIR platforms.

          You or anyone else do not have a constitutional right to have your message posted by a third party.

          The second anyone AGREES to their terms and conditions you effectively give them the right to censor you or ban you if you violate that agreement.

          It’s all about that little button that says “I AGREE” that millions mindlessly click on every time someone signs on to a platform. Nobody reads these terms and conditions, but they certainly “AGREE”. And now they have the nerve to complain that their rights are being violated? You give them away freely every time you sign up.

          Turley’s own blog applies the very same concept.

    2. “what about the Looney Tunes who openly stated they would kill Trump supporters or put them in re-education camps?”

      Presumably they’ve been banned by Twitter too.

      If you give the account for one of them, we can check.

      1. Unfortunately I’m unable to provide that info. All I know is what I’ve seen in screen caps in other discussions on the web. I don’t have or want a Twitter account.

        1. You don’t need a Twitter account to specify an account that “openly stated they would kill Trump supporters or put them in re-education camps.” All you need is that account’s address.

          Or you could link to the screen cap you saw, and then I’ll help you look up whether the account is still active on Twitter or has been banned.

          1. I don’t have time to go back and sift through everything I’ve read. If I come across anything I’ll post it.

Leave a Reply