For young conservatives, Twitter has been buzzing over Mr. Controversy himself, Milo Yiannopoulos getting permanently banned from the social media giant. After months of sending out controversial tweets on hot topics and having a few run-ins with temporary bans, Twitter finally said “bye bye” to Milo. Many people who have been offended by his views or find his rhetoric distasteful are rejoicing over Twitter shutting him out. Young conservatives on Twitter who hold this position are shouting “BUT TWITTER IS A PRIVATE COMPANY” Yes, yes it is. Twitter at the end of the day is a private company, like a bakery, and they can deny service to customers based on their own free will.
But let’s stop and take a look at the greater role social media giants like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube holds in the United States today. These are vital. Could you imagine 2016 without social media? How many millennials would actually be informed on the candidates? Heck, even the politically-savvy millennials, we wouldn’t know half we do about the election today without social media. Social media allows voters to interact with the candidates in a way we never have seen before. No longer can we only hear from the candidates through media soundbites, or pre-scripted question interviews, or 20 second commercials, or the autobiography they wrote 3 years ago, or pamphlets they send in the mail once a month. Now we can see Hillary Clinton using vine and read Donald Trump’s tweets. You can tweet at Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz and heck, they might even answer you. On the other side, candidates can even see what’s trending and what’s being said about them so they can best gage where the American electorate stands at. This is a far greater tool than any pollster or focus group.
Could you imagine breaking news without Twitter? To be honest, those seem like archaic days and with good reason. Twitter has created a platform for journalism and citizens to interact and experience the news.
When situations like the Dallas shooting, Turkey’s coup, or the Democrat’s sit-in happen, we turn to Twitter to get the latest news. Don’t lie to yourself because you do it too. As much as you’d like to think, you turn to the NYT or WSJ to get news because you’re ~sophisticated~ you know you turn on Twitter. Why’s that? Because those journalists tweeted their information about these situations an hour ago. Average citizens on the ground in Dallas and Turkey have sent their 6 second clips on Twitter and they already have thousands of retweets. The Dallas Police Department or the Turkish government have tweeted their official statement at the moment. Journalists and pundits are giving out what information they know to their followers, gathering sources from all over the world. When the Democrats had their sit-in, there was no cameras allowed due to House rules. There was no live CNN or FOX coverage. So we relied on the Democrats breaking the rules and taking selfies on the floor. Yes, that was ridiculous, but hey, it allowed us to experience the news. For 25 hours we followed Congressional reporters who were live tweeting from the press gallery and pushing out articles on Twitter.
So maybe Twitter is more than just a private company like a bakery denying a gay couple. Maybe Twitter should be treated more like a utility company or a news platform. Former Twitter CEO Dick once compared the social media platform to utility companies, like a water company, due to it’s usefulness. So maybe the company should start acting like it. Just like a water company can’t deny your house water service because you’re a edgy conservative, Twitter shouldn’t deny you service. Power companies can’t deny giving Milo power to his house, shouldn’t Twitter be obliged to the same utility company standard?
Now, I am not defending all of Milo’s view or his tweets. He’s just one guy who joined the ranks of people ranked from Twitter, like Chuck Johnson. As of right now, Twitter is still the private company that has the right to deny service to certain customers. But who's to say where this ends? If a religious brand or figure starts tweeting anti-abortion or anti-gay marriage tweets, do we stop them? What if Hillary Clinton calls up Twitter and asks to ban all those who call her a “bitch” or a “murderer” or any of the other names people call Twitter, which could get pretty gruesome. If Leslie Jones could do it, who is to say Hillary can’t? What if Twitter decides to ban conservative news sources or blogs, like Breitbart because they publish opinion pieces that might have Milo-esque language? What happens when Twitter starts going after journalists?
The fact of the matter is, journalism and media wouldn’t be able to survive without social media. Every single major media outlet (and even blogs, looking at you right-wing bloggers) thrive off their social media presence. Social media helps up-and-coming journalists make a name for themselves. Social media allows both the left and the right to express their opinions.
This issue reaches far beyond just Milo. Yes, you might disagree with him and you might be happy that your timeline is purged of his tweets. But maybe we should be defending Milo’s right to Twitter. Maybe it’s time we stop seeing Twitter as just a private company, like a bakery. We need to start seeing social media for its greater role in American society.
Stay classy, Katie