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Freedom of Expression in the Age of Trump

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Twitter is not a threat to freedom of expression – the people deploying the army against protesters protesting for their right to live without fear are!

It’s been a disturbing couple of days, not to say months or years. The US President has seemingly lost his last marbles and has most definitely lost his copy of the constitution that I’m pretty sure he at some point must have sworn an oath to defend. Then again, this is hardly news.

The last few days is merely revealing the culmination of issues that have been brewing in the US since the birth of the nation and even longer than that, to mechanisms of power, and structural racism that long predates the concept of the republic. But let’s not dwell to much on that and instead concentrate on what has happened since a Minnesota police officer murdered George Floyd, a black american man in Minneapolis on May 25th 2020.

George Floyd was not the first black man to utter the words “I can’t breathe” as a white police officer was kneeling on him – I fear he will also not be the last.

The day after the murder of George Floyd the social media network Twitter decided to add links to lead it’s users to verifiable facts to a tweet posted by President Trump. The tweet was on mail-in ballots, another contentious issue as the COVID19 pandemic makes voting in the general election a potential health hazard for many. An increase in mail-in ballots, or anything, really, that empowers Americans to vote poses a threat to the current administration in the November election and so Trump wants to restrict people’s access to vote as much as possible. In the land of gerrymandering, pre-registering to vote, unreasonable ID requirements to vote that disproportionally affect minorities etc. the state of the democracy is a general mess, far along the slippery slope towards authoritarianism.

Mind you; Twitter had yet to actually remove any content by the President. Twitter is also a private company with no obligation to keep any content publicly available, yet they chose to not remove the content posted by the President, and daily choose to keep their platform available to people with despicable, violent, harmful and hate-fueled worldviews all in the name of wanting to defend freedom of expression even from people who deeply disagree with the values held by the people behind the platform.

The only authority that technically can pose a threat to the first amendment in the US, the amendment of the constitution protecting freedom of expression is the government. It is thus somewhat ironic that President Trump made these accusations against a private entity that has served as a platform for him and his comrades to share questionable content for years. Further, it is ironic that he, while crying for his own freedom of expression now is deploying the army in Minneapolis, against the very people he governs, people who protest for their right to live as free Americans without fear – doing exactly what he’s accusing others of doing – being a severe threat to freedom of expression.

Long gone are the days of reason – may freedom prevail.

  • Bjørn Ihler is the founding Editor in Chief of Activism Academy and co-founder of The Khalifa-Ihler Institute, the organization behind the academy. Ihler has a long track record as a contributor to multiple international publications and is a well renowned activist working among others with the Kofi Annan Foundation to counter violent extremism.

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