Mar 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Bernie Sanders raises concerns about Twitter's ban on Trump

 Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, speaks during a hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 17

Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Senate on Capitol Hill in March. Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told New York Times podcast "The Ezra Klein Show" Tuesday he doesn't feel "particularly comfortable" with Twitter permanently banning former President Trump from the platform.

Driving the news: In the interview, Sanders was asked about criticisms from some conservatives that liberals had become "too censorious." Sanders responded by saying Trump "is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, a pathological liar, an authoritarian, somebody who doesn't believe in the rule of law."

But, but, but: He added, "if you're asking me, do I feel particularly comfortable that the president, the then-president of the United States, could not express his views on Twitter? I don’t feel comfortable about it."

  • Sanders noted that social media sites shouldn't allow "hate speech and conspiracy theories" to go "traveling all over" the U.S. or be "used for authoritarian purposes and insurrection."
  • He said he wasn't sure how to achieve that balance, but "it is an issue that we have got to be thinking about" because "yesterday it was Donald Trump who was banned, and tomorrow it could be somebody else who has a very different point of view."
"I don’t like giving that much power to a handful of high tech people, but the devil is obviously in the details and it’s something we’re going to have to think long and hard on, and that is how you preserve First Amendment rights without moving this country into a big lie mentality and conspiracy theories."

For the record: Sanders' has called for the breakup of Big Tech companies and repeatedly criticized them for their monopolies.

What to watch: During the podcast interview, Sanders noted he'd invited Amazon's Jeff Bezos to testify at a hearing on inequality this week and that "a guy who was worth $182 billion, that’s a B, $182 billion thinks he has to spend millions of dollars to fight workers who are trying to form a union to improve their wages and working conditions."

  • The Senate Budget Committee chair added: "We need to pass legislation to make it easier for workers to join unions because if workers are in unions and can negotiate decent contracts, their wages will go up. Their working conditions and their benefits will improve. So we are working hard on that issue."

What they're saying: Twitter declined to comment on Sanders' remarks, but a spokesperson pointed to the company's January blog post stating that its actions were in response to the "risk of further incitement of violence."

  • Amazon did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper: Young people want checks on Big Tech's power

Go deeper