Shortly after a far-right mob stormed the Capitol complex on January 6 Big Tech finally unplugged President Donald Trump. For years he had used social media to communicate with his supporters. And as lawmakers in the Capitol scurried to find places of safety Trump had continued: ‘STOP THE STEAL’, he posted. ‘You will never take back our country with weakness.’ Then, suddenly, Big Tech cracked down. Reddit removed the r/DonaldTrump subreddit. YouTube tightened its policy on posting videos that called the outcome of the election into doubt. TikTok took down posts with hashtags like #stormthecapitol. Facebook suspended Trump’s account indefinitely, and Twitter took his account away permanently.
Liberal commentators in the US argued that deplatforming Trump was the right decision — in spite of their concerns about the power of Big Tech. Tech companies, they said, are private entities that, like all traditional publishers, choose what to publish and what to avoid. Deplatforming Trump was accountability, they argued, not censorship.
But many saw this as a chilling move. “We couldn’t beat you in the war of ideas and discourse, so we’re pulling your mic” — that’s how Archon Fung, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government put it. Deplatforming Trump, critics said, showed the world that unelected Silicon Valley elites have the power to silence those they deem unpalatable. If you don’t like Trump then by all means challenge his rhetoric with open debate — but don’t support tech companies that censor politicians their CEOs don’t happen to like.
Speakers are subject to change.