Trump has successfully leveraged Twitter to reach out to followers, attack celebrities, and influence foreign policy. And now some media outlets are calling for Twitter to ban Trump. His impulsive, indiscriminate use of Twitter has been seen as dangerous to the public’s safety.
At this time, Twitter has not suspended or terminated Trump’s account.
But should Twitter be forced to ban Trump?
In the Canadian case of Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack, 2014 BCSC 1063, Justice Fenlon ordered Google Inc. to refrain from indexing or referencing specific websites. In justifying the ban, Justice Fenlon wrote that:
“ As for balancing the interests of the plaintiffs and non-party Google, the plaintiffs have established that they are suffering irreparable harm by the defendants’ ongoing sale of the GW1000 on the internet. The plaintiffs have also established that Google is inadvertently facilitating that harm through its search engines. While there are other search engines, Google does not contest the plaintiffs’ assertion that Google’s position as the search engine used for 70-75% of internet searches means the defendants will not be commercially successful if they cannot be found through Google’s search services.”
The test for silencing expression on the Internet should be similar to the test used by Justice Fenlon. Plaintiffs should have to establish that they are suffering irreparable harm to ban speech.
Censoring expression is a drastic measure. And should be taken seriously. As we transition from a print-based society to an Internet-based society, the Internet has become the building blocks of society. Interfering with the use or access to the Internet is a substantial infringement to one’s rights to expression. It should be treated with the utmost care.
We can only hope that as Trump stands at the Lincoln Memorial, on the eve of his inauguration, he harkens back to the speech given by Martin Luther King Jr half a century ago. It was at that very memorial that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in his “I Have a Dream Speech”:
Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.