- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Sen. Bernard Sanders said in a new interview he’s uncomfortable with social media companies banning former President Donald Trump, regardless of how “racist” and “sexist” he is, because it runs the risk of giving too much power to Big Tech.

“Look, you have a former president in Trump, who was a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, a pathological liar, an authoritarian, somebody who doesn’t believe in the rule of law,” the Vermont independent and twice-failed presidential candidate told The New York Times on Tuesday. “This is a bad-news guy. But if you’re asking me, do I feel particularly comfortable that the then-president of the United States could not express his views on Twitter? I don’t feel comfortable about that.”

Twitter permanently banned Mr. Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account “due to the risk of further incitement of violence” following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat also banned the then-president in the riot’s aftermath.

On Sunday, a former Trump adviser said Mr. Trump would be reemerging on social media in a few months using “his own platform.”

Mr. Sanders, who has called for the breakup of Big Tech companies, told The Times he doesn’t know the appropriate balance between stifling speech and mitigating the spread of hate and conspiracy theories.

“Now, I don’t know what the answer is,” he said. “Do you want hate speech and conspiracy theories traveling all over this country? No. Do you want the internet to be used for authoritarian purposes and an insurrection, if you like? No, you don’t. So how do you balance that? I don’t know, 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,” he added. “But the devil is obviously in the details, and it’s something we’re going to have to think long and hard on.”

Mr. Sanders made the comments after being asked by The Times’ Ezra Klein whether liberals had become too willing to censor ideas that offend them. 

The senator said it’s going to “take a lot of work” for Democrats to earn the trust of many Americans, particularly in red states.

“These cultural issues, I don’t know how you bridge the gap,” Mr. Sanders said. “You have people who are fervently anti-choice, and I’m not sure that you are going to win many of them over. But I think what we have got to do is do what I’m afraid the Democrats have not always done in the past. And that is treat people with respect.

“I come from one of the most rural states in America, and I lived in a town of 200 people for a couple of years,” he continued. “And I think there is not an appreciation of rural America or the values of rural America, the sense of community that exists in rural America. And somehow or another, the intellectual elite does have, in some cases, a contempt for the people who live in rural America. I think we’ve got to change that attitude and start focusing on the needs of people in rural America, treat them with respect, and understand there are areas there are going to be disagreements, but we can’t treat people with contempt.”

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