Twitter Suspends Mitch McConnell’s Account
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is having an unpleasant August recess. First, he had a slip and fall at the Louisville, Kentucky home, fracturing his shoulder. Then, the shootings in El Paso and Dayton occurred. Democrats started to demand the McConnell cut the recess short and reconvene the Senate to pass “common-sense gun safety laws.” Something the leader has little desire to do. Then, a group of protestors gathered around his home and started to scream, invectives and death threats. Finally, when McConnell’s campaign organization posted a video of the protests on Twitter, the social media giant suspended its account.
Fox News explains:
“Twitter locked accounts belonging to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign and several prominent conservatives Monday after they posted videos of left-wing protesters gathered outside McConnell’s Kentucky home — with one demonstrator calling for someone to stab McConnell ‘in the heart’ and for McConnell to break his ‘raggedy’ neck.
“The episode prompted the McConnell campaign, known as ‘Team Mitch,’ to slam Twitter for political bias, saying the social media platform had effectively blamed the victim. Meanwhile, observers noted, Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro remains active on Twitter, even after he posted the names of San Antonio residents who donated to Trump.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has pulled all ads from Twitter. The move is seen as symbolic as the NRSC has not bought very many of the ads recently.
The dust-up between McConnell and Twitter is the latest in a long series of incidents in which social media platforms have censored conservative and conservative groups. Usually, the offending person or entity is accused of violating rules of service, the definition of which is vague enough to escape understanding. As a rule, liberal people and groups are dealt with under different rules. Indeed, some conservatives have postulated that the “rules of service” seem to prohibit “posting while right.”
Conservatives are caught in a quandary. On the one hand, the social media giants are private companies, so free-market principles would tend to argue against interfering with their content policies. On the other hand, companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are behaving as monopolies, using their dominance to affect politics in ways that a private company ought not to.
Politico suggests that the White House has had enough of this unfair treatment.
“The White House is circulating drafts of a proposed executive order that would address allegations of anti-conservative bias by social media companies, according to a White House official and two other people familiar with the matter — a month after President Donald Trump pledged to explore “all regulatory and legislative solutions” on the issue.
“None of the three would describe the contents of the order, which one person cautioned has already taken many different forms and remains in flux. But its existence and the deliberations surrounding it are evidence that the administration is taking a serious look at wielding the federal government’s power against Silicon Valley.”
How an executive order that would restore fairness and balance to social media might be worded is unclear. One possible avenue is antitrust. The New York Post notes that the Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation against the big tech companies, including social media as well as Amazon and Apple. If a way could be found to break up the monopoly power of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, much as the government did Standard Oil and the Bell Telephone Company, their power to put a thumb on the political balance of power would be diminished.
In the meantime, how an executive order could directly affect the way the social media giants handle speech is still uncertain. One possible method would be to use the power the federal government has over federal contractors to compel that balance to be restored to social media. These companies may be cut off from federal contracts should they refuse to comply. A smaller, more free speech friendly platform called Parler exists that could benefit.
If a legislative solution is needed, ironically, Mitch McConnell may be motivated to fast track such a solution through the Senate. However, legislation to bring social media to heel may have rough going in the Democratic-dominated House. In that case, observers note, the matter may become an election-year issue that would work to the advantage of President Trump and the Republicans. Trump has a potent Twitter presence. Not even that social media giant has dared to censor the president of the United States.