PHOENIX - The debate over free speech and social media is intensifying following Facebook and Twitter's ban of President Donald Trump's account. Some conservatives say their voices are being censored by big tech's power in today's age.
The question remains: Are social media companies in violation of the First Amendment when banning someone from using their platforms?
The answer is simply, no.
The First Amendment is strictly relevant to the government. It's a different field of play when you enter social media platforms, even if you are the President of the United States.
By the time Trump tweeted, calling for peace and for rioters to leave the Capitol on Jan. 6, the damage had already been done.
Gregg Leslie, executive director of the First Amendment Clinic at Arizona State University, says to not get the decision to ban Trump confused with protection under the First Amendment.
"The First Amendment stops Congress and the government basically from interfering with the right of free speech or freedom of the press," Leslie explained.
What the president tells supporters at a rally is handled differently in the social media world, however.
"I think you'd have a pretty good argument that his speech was protected under the First Amendment. It's just that when you move into the private realm of Twitter, the same rules don't apply," he said.
The bottom line is users must follow the terms of service or get kicked off.
"They have the right to ban anyone, so they're clearly within their rights to say we don't wanna be apart of an action like this," Leslie said.
A quick read of the First Amendment's text specifically says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof: or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
Private companies aren't mentioned.
Leslie says to expect a give and take between platforms and its users. "It's going to be a case-by-case determination and we're probably going to see some interesting decisions along the way but there is no hard and fast rule as to what these platforms have to do," he explained.
Alternative social media platform, Parler, popular with conservatives, filed a lawsuit Jan. 11 against Amazon following Amazon Web Services' move to suspend Parler from its cloud hosting service. The app has also been booted by Apple and Google.