Social media is once again in the political and legal crosshairs as we ramp up to the Presidential Election on November 3rd. Gone are the days of posting silly cat gifs or just innocently updating your status with the cup of coffee you bought that day. These days social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been weaponized to deliver all sorts of information, true and otherwise to people of all political leanings.
It seemingly started during the previous election cycle and Facebook’s overwhelming influence on how people “discuss” politics. Now, social media sites find themselves once again at the center of the political discourse with recent speculation that lawsuits could be filed in accordance with free and right to speech laws. In an interview with Fox News, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows criticized the Facebook and Twitter handling of a controversial NY Post article detailing Hunter Biden’s business interests abroad. The post is under much scrutiny in both its accuracy and where the information was originally sourced.
In that same interview, Meadows claimed that Twitter’s overreach on various forms of content essentially acted as them taking on the role of gatekeeper for information, deciding on what was true or not. This comes in response to Twitter suspending Trump’s campaign accounts after they reshared the NY Post story. Meadows asserts that their handling of the issue violated certain laws and opened them up to extensive litigation.
And this isn’t the only example in this ongoing feud between Team Trump and the online platform. They’ve deleted tweets from his health advisor about mask protocols while also “hiding” a previous Tweet from Trump earlier in the month about numbers around Covid-19 fatality rates. Social media giant Facebook deleted that post altogether.
Beyond just potential lawsuits, the social media companies may have landed in government and judiciary crosshairs as well. A group of Republicans is threatening to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey over his handling of the situation. That process does look a little delayed though with not all of the relevant players on board with the decision to bring Jack to DC. He might not have to make the trip at all to get grilled on his response to the tweets.
As far as social media is concerned, the lawsuits at times appear to go both ways. In August, a group of voter advocates filed a lawsuit against Trump for pushing through social media executive orders. And he’s already under fire in another lawsuit with claims he’s violated First Amendment rights on a variety of platforms. Judging by the current President’s liberal use of his thumbs to push out his messaging, there’s reason to suspect these lawsuits will only gain steam over the coming month.
With the election less than a month away and the political discourse already ratcheted up to frenetic levels, I very much doubt this is the end of the line on the social media lawsuit talk. With a new cycle of news seemingly every few hours, these platforms are more and more used as political advertising and messaging arms from both sides of the aisle. This is unlikely to be the last clash over what can go up on Facebook and Twitter.