Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Saturday that he was “more determined” to rollback liability protections for big tech companies after Twitter permanently removed President Donald Trump’s account from its platform.
“Twitter may ban me for this but I willingly accept that fate: Your decision to permanently ban President Trump is a serious mistake,” Graham said in a series of posts on Twitter. “The Ayatollah can tweet, but Trump can’t. Says a lot about the people who run Twitter.”
“I’m more determined than ever to strip Section 230 protections from Big Tech (Twitter) that let them be immune from lawsuits,” he added.
Big tech companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and other Silicon Valley companies have repeatedly been criticized for their unbalanced policing of user content on social media platforms. Critics claim that the companies are engaging in conduct that limits conservative viewpoints and stifles free speech.
Trump and the Justice Department have urged Congress to roll back legal protections under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act for companies that have engaged in censoring or political conduct. The president last month vetoed a defense-spending bill when lawmakers failed to limit the protections in the bill as requested by the administration.
Section 230 largely exempts online platforms from liability for content posted by their users, although they can be held liable for content that violates anti-sex trafficking or intellectual property laws.
The law allows companies to block or screen content “in good faith” if they consider it “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.” The protections, however, weren’t intended to apply to services that act more like publishers than online platforms, former Attorney General William Barr said in a speech in May.
“Big Tech are the only companies in America that virtually have absolute immunity from being sued for their actions, and it’s only because Congress gave them that protection,” Graham said.
“It is now time for Congress to repeal Section 230 and put Big Tech on the same legal footing as every other company in America. Legal accountability.”
Twitter on Friday permanently removed Trump’s account from its platform and justified its censorship by saying that the president had violated its “Glorification of Violence Policy.”
One of the president’s last posts was a video calling for protesters at the U.S. Capitol to leave the area in peace. “You have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order, we have to respect our great people in law and order,” he said in the deleted video.
“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them—specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter—we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said in a statement.
“In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action. Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open.
“However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things. We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement.”
The Epoch Times cannot independently verify the claims made by Twitter in its determination. Twitter did not respond to The Epoch Times’ questions about whether it had any evidence that Trump’s statements were directly linked to any violence.
The account removal came after a group of rioters and a minority of protesters waving American and Trump flags illegally stormed the Capitol building as lawmakers were counting electoral votes in a joint session. The mayhem left five people dead and dozens of police officers injured.
The media, lawmakers, former officials, and other critics have put the blame on Trump for Wednesday’s incident and have been calling for his impeachment. Earlier that day, the president addressed a crowd in Washington D.C. where he reiterated his allegations about election irregularities and fraud, and his dissatisfaction with the media and several lawmakers. At 12:16 p.m., he encouraged protesters to “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” at the planned protest outside the Capitol.
As thousands of protesters moved their demonstration to the U.S. Capitol, small pockets of violence were reported during clashes with police and media, while the vast majority of protesters remained peaceful. At 2:15 p.m., a small subgroup began rioting, smashing windows in an attempt to enter the Capitol building as other protesters tried to stop them. Shortly after, at 2:38 p.m., Trump started posting on Twitter, urging his supporters to “Stay peaceful.” He continued his urge for peace and respect for law enforcement throughout the afternoon.
Rioters ended up breaching the Capitol building, and other protesters followed. Trump has since condemned the “heinous attack” by intruders on the Capitol, saying “the demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy.”
“To those who engaged in acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country. And to those who broke the law, you will pay,” he said.
Trump’s account was not the only one targeted in Twitter’s ramped-up policing. The social media platform had also suspended the accounts of former national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and lawyer Sidney Powell, citing “Coordinated Harmful Activity.”
Similarly, Brandon Straka, the head of the conservative WalkAway movement, told The Epoch Times on Friday that Facebook had removed the group’s page and banned individual accounts belonging to the team.
The move to remove Trump’s account has received widespread scrutiny. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley both likened Twitter’s move to conduct by the communist party in China.
“Silencing people, not to mention the President of the U.S., is what happens in China not our country,” Haley wrote.
“You want to ban @realDonaldTrump, fine you’re a private company, but @Twitter deleting the President’s account which highlights this admin & its history is wrong. @Facebook & @instagram banning all images from the Capitol riot is a dangerous precedent to set. We aren’t in China,” Carson wrote.
Leading up to and after the November general election, Twitter also increased its policing of posts by the president and other users over claims of voter fraud. In a Nov. 12 update, the social media company said it had applied labels, warnings, and other restrictions to about 300,000 posts from Oct. 27 to Nov. 11 for content that they classified as “disputed and potentially misleading.” This number represents about 0.2 percent of all U.S. election-related posts published in that time period.
“Twitter is going wild with their flags, trying hard to suppress even the truth. Just shows how dangerous they are, purposely stifling free speech. Very dangerous for our Country. Does Congress know that this is how Communism starts?” Trump said in a Twitter post on Christmas eve.
The social media company also suppressed a series of exposés by the New York Post last year about the alleged business dealings of Hunter Biden, son of President-elect Joe Biden.
The push to remove Section 230 protections have received push back from technology groups.
Mimi Nguyen-Ly contributed to this report.