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By Farooq Kperogi
There’s a lot of ignorance– in both the US and Nigeria– about what free speech actually entails. Private businesses such as social media platforms have no legal obligation to allow you to use their services. They can ban anybody who runs afoul of their rules. And that’s not a violation of anyone’s freedom; on the contrary, it’s an exercise of the social media platforms’ freedoms.
America’s First Amendment, which many people misunderstand as guaranteeing absolute free speech, only says “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” “Congress” here has come to represent governments at all levels. So the First Amendment’s free speech protection is limited to governments. It doesn’t extend to non-government entities.
And people who are comparing American social media platforms’ ban of Trump with Chinese social media censorship have no sense of irony.
In China, it is the president who bans social media platforms; in America, it is social media platforms that have banned the president. That bespeaks robust independence of thought in America, not censorship. It shows that, unlike in China and elsewhere, the US president has no absolute power.
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By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
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