The acronym ACLU stands for American Civil Liberties Union. But during the Trump era, one could easily believe the L stood for Liberals.
Since President Donald Trump has been in office, the ACLU has fought against stiffer regulation of immigration laws, argued against restricting First Amendment rights protecting religious freedom on behalf of LGBT activists, and decided that free speech can be curbed if it offends “marginalized communities.”
But after Twitter decided to permanently marginalize Trump by banning his 88.5-million-follower account, the ACLU spoke up for the president it loves to hate.
“We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now, but it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions — especially when political realities make those decisions easier,” Kate Ruane, the ACLU’s senior legislative counsel, said in a statement that was reported by The Washington Times.
“President Trump can turn to his press team or Fox News to communicate with the public, but others — like the many Black, Brown, and LGBTQ activists who have been censored by social media companies — will not have that luxury.”
Twitter banned Trump after a pair of tweets on Friday. One suggested his millions of followers would not be “disrespected,” while the other announced his intention to skip President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Twitter somehow interpreted Trump’s tweets as creating a “risk of further incitement of violence” in the wake of Wednesday’s tragic riot at the U.S. Capitol. Five people died, and scores were injured during the melee as some of the tens of thousands of Trump supporters on hand crashed the Capitol entrance.
Ironically, the ACLU now somewhat came to Trump’s defense after being critical of his efforts to curb the freedom of social media companies to control their content.
Last May Trump issued an executive order that would strip social media companies of protection from legal liability for what gets posted on their sites.
Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act says, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
The law was intended to protect internet companies by allowing them to restrict users’ posts considered obscene, excessively violent, or harassing.
But conservatives have long called for reforming the law. Under Trump, companies like Facebook and Twitter, they argued, had freely censored right-leaning content, without fear of a lawsuit, under a provision of Section 230 that allows them to remove material deemed “otherwise objectionable.”
At the time even Biden applauded the move. Section 230, he said, should be “revoked” because social media firms were “propagating falsehoods.”
Yet the ACLU objected to Trump’s effort to chip away at the law. “Much as he might wish otherwise, Donald Trump is not the president of Twitter,” Ruane said last May.