Freedom of speech is defined as:

The right to express any opinion in public without censorship or restraint by the government, protected in the United States as a right under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

According to the definition, I think that the freedom of speech might've been compromised in the US, for example the suspension of president Trump's account by Twitter and the lockdown of Parler by Amazon are two examples that can support this claim. I'd like to know:

  • How these restrictions are explained?

  • If the freedom of speech has been compromised in the US.

  • 5
    Freedom of speech has never been an absolute: xkcd.com/1357 Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 15:21
  • 7
    By your own definition, the two examples you cited are not examples of violations of the First Amendment. Moreover, as @DJClayworth, that right is not absolute. Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 15:22
  • 1
    Trump was also supporting removal of regulations that would protect twitter social media companies from what their users post which would make them remove more content rather than protect it.
    – Joe W
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 15:28
  • 1
    I mean, one could argue that rarely-used fighting words exemptions, decency laws, libel laws, and obscenity laws all have the potential to violate freedom of speech as defined there. But that is not at all new, and not at all what you are asking about.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 15:42
  • 3
    I think this is better closed as a duplicate of one of the many questions that have been asked about this issue.
    – divibisan
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 17:13

2 Answers 2


It is impossible for any entity other than the United States government (federal, state, or municipal depending on specifics) to violate your First Amendment rights. As you quote (emphasis mine):

The right to express any opinion in public without censorship or restraint by the government, protected in the United States as a right under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Amazon and Twitter are not part of the government, so they cannot violate your first amendment rights. Actions taken by these organizations can be examined in the broader societal context of "free speech", but it's not a First Amendment issue since it's unrelated to government.

Perhaps Randall Munroe said it best: "The right to free speech means the government can't arrest you for what you say. It doesn't mean that anyone else has to listen to your bullshit, or host you while you share it."

  • I think SCOTUS has extended that to the States (via their interpretation of the 14th Amendment, IIRC) and to some state-like entities, including e.g. [state] school boards, again IIRC. Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 15:22
  • 5
    Nitpick: "the United States government" usually means "Federal Government", and the 1st amendment was incorporated against State Governments by the 14th amendment
    – Caleth
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 15:23
  • 1
    I would just assume that anything considered "government" at any level would be subject to the First Amendment, unless conclusively demonstrated otherwise.
    – Bobson
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 16:49
  • 1
    @Fizz What is SCOTUS?
    – user35972
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 19:23
  • 1
    @SomeGuy, Supreme Court of the United States Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 19:56

Basically not by that example, unless SCOTUS somehow decides to go against their previous rulings on how far one can extend the notion of "government". The most recent relevant case is MNN.

Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, No. 17-1702, 587 U.S. ___ (2019), was a United States Supreme Court case related to limitations on First Amendment-based free speech placed by private operators. The Court held that a public access station was not considered a state actor for purposes of evaluating free speech issues in a 5-4 ruling split along ideological lines. Prior to the Court's decision, analysts believed that the case had the potential to determine whether limitations on free speech on social media violate First Amendment rights. However, the Court's narrow holding avoided that issue.

It's also worth noting the grounds for the dissenting (minority) opinion in that case:

The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor believed that MNN “stepped into the City's shoes and thus qualifies as a state actor, subject to the First Amendment like any other." Justice Sotomayor also argues that since New York City laws require that public-access channels be open to all, MNN also took responsibility for this law with the public-access channels. It did not matter whether the City or a private company runs this public forum since the City mandated that the channels be open to all.

But it's harder to see how even that reasoning (which did not prevail for a public access [cable] TV station) could apply to Twitter, Amazon etc. E.g. there's no law or regulation that "Twitter be open to all" in return for some government benefits to Twitter (like accessing some cable monopoly/infrastructure). The nature of the web/internet makes it harder for the government to use something as "legal leverage" for (say) demanding broad access for every would-be user in exchange.

In cases involving free speech claims vs private property rights, SCOTUS has almost always sided with the latter. A prior case (1972) involved leaflets distributed on a shopping mall. Only back in the 1940s there was a case in which a company-town street was judged as a place where government-like free speech rules should apply (and even that was a 5-3 split decision).