ON FRIDAY, THE President of the United States declared that he intends to ban a vibrant source of American speech. And that he intends to eliminate competition in a giant industry that doesn’t have nearly enough. It’s a rare feat to upturn two such fundamental democratic values—free speech and free markets—at the same time.
There has been a certain amount of conspiratorial talk about Trump and Zuckerberg since the two had dinner last November: theorizing perhaps that they reached some sort of tacit agreement that Zuckerberg would allow Trump to use the platform as he saw fit, and Trump would help Zuckerberg in other ways? I’ve always doubted that there was anything explicit. But powerful diplomacy doesn’t work that way. It happens through subtle signals, winks, and nods. And I doubt that Zuckerberg’s kindness toward the White House didn’t weigh somewhat in Trump’s mind.
But this of course just lays bare the hypocrisy in Trump’s move. It’s a move against free speech and, to the extent that Facebook has been gentle on the president, it’s because of Zuckerberg’s defense of that fundamental right. And if one is an avid believer in free speech, how can one even threaten the death penalty for a social media platforrm?