Picture: 123RF/GILC
Picture: 123RF/GILC

Your editorial referred to the “shock waves across the world” because of the attack on the US Capitol by mobs who had attended President Donald Trump’s rally (“Social media firms must be held accountable”, January 12).

Facebook and Twitter banned Trump from their platforms due to the threat of further violence. The editorial argued that the social media companies could no longer rely on their previous refusal to take responsibility for content on their platforms because they were not publishers. “They have previously refused to take down misleading material and outright lies.”

The current situation was a “game-changer”, it said. “It is high time that these organisations are treated like other publishers and are held responsible for what they disseminate.” But these platforms are not publishers, which newspapers should understand better than most. Unlike newspapers, television and radio, social media platforms are designed to carry the views of citizens, not of journalistic professionals; they can’t control the sheer volume.

However, due to pressure on them, particularly from the Left, they have banned people or groups because their opinions differ from the complainants’, not because they are factually wrong or their opinions outrageous. Social media moguls have become the arbiters of what is politically or scientifically correct, yet are not qualified to do so.

They aren’t media; they are hosting platforms. There should be no limits to what is posted, and contributors should take legal action against other contributors by suing for defamation, say, or laying a charge of incitement.

Social media platforms should require that contributors subscribe in their real names and have an address on record so legal action can be taken against the offender, not the platform. Now that would be a game-changer.

Sara Gon
Institute of Race Relations

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