Some people seem to have a very absurd notion of what counts as censorship. The first amendment protects the right to the free exchange of information. It does not guarantee you a venue. Private entities get to choose whether or not to facilitate your exchange of ideas or not.
I rather like the following quote by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau. “Censorship’s when the government gets involved. It’s called editing [when private entities do it].” It more or less sums up the entire argument. According to the first amendment “Congress shall make no law…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.” In no way does this demand that a private corporation, or individual must provide a venue in which to speak. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms are not public institutions. They are privately owned entities and their owners have the right to choose what content is allowed and what content is not allowed. This is not censorship. This is editorial authority. Just as a publisher has the authority to limit what content is published, so does any other content provider or facilitator.
To demand that such an institution be required to allow any and all content is a violation of the owners’ rights and privileges. It is also authoritarian and a violation of the constitution. The people have a certain amount of power to make demands to content providers and facilitators. We can stop using their services. But that is the total extent of our power against them. Anything else is tyranny.
One caveat should be addressed. There has been an issue with Twitter, Facebook, et. al. being quite biased in their enforcement of their TOS. While it is still editorial power that they are expressing, and not censorship, it could be argued that what they are doing is violating a contract. Unless the TOS clearly states that the content facilitator may be biased in its application of the TOS, then the TOS, more than just a set of rules for the user, is a contract between the company and all its users that it will not permit certain content. Therefore enforcing the TOS in one instance, and not in another, is a clear violation of a contract.
Argument from Definition
Censorship is “the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.” – Wiki
There is an important reason why the decision to not accept certain types of content in Twitter, Facebook, etc is not censorship. The internet, social media networks, etc are not things that people just “have.” They are goods and services provided to people. If the content facilitator decides not to let you use their services, that is a refusal to provide, not a prohibition. It is the same thing as refusing to let someone park in a parking lot, refusing to pay for someone else’s health care, and so on.
Another way to think about the difference between censorship and editorial power is looking at whether or not force was involved. If someone is using force in order to limit your ability to exchange information, then it is censorship. If someone is simply refusing to help you spread your ideas, then it is not. Furthermore, if we allowed censorship to be any passive condition which results in a limited ability to express one’s ideas, then a person who refuses to let another person, who wishes to have a venue to speak, into his own house, business, etc would be censoring people. That just seems too absurd to be reasonable.
Perhaps one reason why there is a disconnect in the case of Twitter et. al. is because people seem to view the internet as a public good, or almost as a natural resource which is simply there. However, the internet, social media sites, etc are all services which are actively provided to people. If an institution refuses to give others access to its network, or decides to limi that access, it is a passive condition, not a use of force. It is not censorship.