Is Twitter Violating Contractual Agreements When It Expels Users?
Liberals rarely defend the property rights of corporations, so it is quite amusing that scores of them are arguing that social media companies have the right to deplatform rogue actors. Unfortunately, by making free speech the crux of the argument libertarians have ceded the debate to liberals. Instead, we should be asking ourselves if companies can arbitrarily violate contractual agreements. When the average person signs up to become a member of Twitter, he does not view his actions as constituting a contract, but nonetheless, a binding agreement exists.
If the contract is breached by either party, then the aggrieved party is entitled to remedies. Although the terms of service agreement created by Twitter allows the platform to expel users for engaging in unlawful conduct or harassing others, it also explicitly notes that Twitter will not be responsible for tweets that offend viewers: “ You understand that by using the Services, you may be exposed to Content that might be offensive, harmful, inaccurate or otherwise inappropriate, or in some cases, postings that have been mislabeled or are otherwise deceptive.” By joining Twitter, one consents to peruse hostile content. Twitter is not obliged to protect users from controversial ideas. Using Twitter, like navigating life in general is risky. As such, people assuming that Twitter ought to be a safe place should just exit the platform.1
Twitter is a social media platform enabling different groups to share a wide variety of experiences. It does not exist to solely promote the viewpoints of liberals. Eccentric characters are free to express inaccurate positions—they may even spread dubious conspiracy theories—none of these actions are impermissible under their contract with Twitter. One expects users to exercise judgement when consuming information. Therefore, they must hold themselves accountable for failing to properly assess posts on the platform. Based on its terms of service Twitter cannot be held liable if users fail to exert due diligence. Here is an excerpt: “All Content is the sole responsibility of the person who originated such Content. We may not monitor or control the Content posted via the Services and, we cannot take responsibility for such Content.”
By genuflecting to the liberal mob, Twitter is violating agreements with conservative users, when they are expelled for not conforming to the worldview of liberals. Obviously, we can understand Twitter removing a Neo-Nazi with a criminal history from the platform, if he wants to use it as a base to organize a violent rally. But to cancel an account because the user has espoused opinions that some liberals deem to be incendiary is downright unjust. The truth is that Twitter must be sued for violating its contractual obligations to defenestrated users.
Unsurprisingly, the latest victim of Twitter is Donald Trump. Although Twitter can make an account redundant, if the user willfully advocates violence, but this does not apply to Trump. His critics clearly lack an understanding of metaphors. Many on the left have argued that Trump’s invocation of the word “fight” reflects incitement. A close reading of the text, however, indicates that his language is metaphorical: “Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back. It's like a boxer. And we want to be so nice. We want to be so respectful of everybody, including bad people. And we're going to have to fight much harder. And Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn't, that will be a sad day for our country because you're sworn to uphold our constitution…if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.”
In this context, fight does not represent a physical battle, Trump is merely instructing his supporters to protest a perceived injustice. For example, they may challenge what right wingers refer to as the “deep state” by filing lawsuits to contest the election results. Trump had no intention to encourage violence even in his speech he implores his supporters to oppose the political establishment peacefully: “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
Trump is a tainted character, so liberals often use his clumsy speeches as an opportunity to guilt people into accepting their sentiments. Defending Trump automatically makes one a deplorable personality. Since most people fear social stigma, they often agree with liberals out of desperation. Though the decision to ban Trump is widely celebrated, Twitter is guilty of misconduct. As we have shown Twitter has no authority to deplatform Trump based on his speech. This entire fiasco reveals Twitter’s contempt for contractual agreements. Politically correct libertarians who argue that the First Amendment only protects citizens from the power of government are missing the point. At the heart of the saga is Big Tech’s disdain for contractual rights when users who do not subscribe to a liberal outlook are removed from social media. Libertarians must never allow their hatred for Trump to prevent them from defending the cause of liberty.
Twitter’s rules against hateful conduct are quite specific. Tweets can be removed for expressing statements construed as dehumanizing individuals based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin etc. If this threshold is not met then Twitter is in violation of its policy. It must also be stated that although such tweets may provide justification for removal, Twitter does not clearly state that users will be expelled for espousing said views. Furthermore, Twitter’s policy on misinformation addresses specific issues pertaining to misleading statements that seek to cause harm. However, if an opinion is perceived as misleading, but the evidence indicates that it is true, then twitter has no authority to deplatform users and doing otherwise would be an arbitrary violation of contractual rights.
- 1. Twitter’s rules against hateful conduct are quite specific. Tweets can be removed for expressing statements construed as dehumanizing individuals based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin etc. If this threshold is not met then Twitter is in violation of its policy. It must also be stated that although such tweets may provide justification for removal, Twitter does not clearly state that users will be expelled for espousing said views. Furthermore, Twitter’s policy on misinformation addresses specific issues pertaining to misleading statements that seek to cause harm. However, if an opinion is perceived as misleading, but the evidence indicates that it is true, then twitter has no authority to deplatform users and doing otherwise would be an arbitrary violation of contractual rights.