People upset about Twitter banning pastor Greg Locke for life should probably settle down, one social media expert said.
The ban likely will grow the overall social media audience for the conservative preacher, said Ken Paulson, director of MTSU’s Free Speech Center and a former USA Today publisher.
And the First Amendment is not in play because Twitter is a privately-owned company, Paulson said.
So, Paulson said, “the outrage about someone’s account being cancelled is probably misplaced.”
GREG LOCKE:Pastor on social media ban: ‘Whatever. We’ll keep on rockin’ without Twitter’
Locke, pastor of Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, started to gain big social media audiences around 2015 when he started lashing out. His first viral rants were on legalizing same-sex marriages and plans by Target to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice.
A Twitter spokesperson told Newsweek that Locke was banned because of “repeated violations of our COVID-19 misleading information policy.”
Even Locke, who had around 114,000 followers, concedes that Twitter was among his smaller online platforms.
A look at the number of followers and subscribers reveals Twitter accounted for less than 5 percent of Locke’s overall social media audience:
► He has 2.2 million Facebook followers;
► About 572,000 TikTok followers;
► About 207,000 Instagram followers; and
► About 71,700 YouTube subscribers.
“Clearly, Pastor Locke has considerable influence and many followers,” Paulson said.
“The fact that one social media outlet decides to delete his account won’t put much of a dent in his outreach. There’s always another outlet. Free speech is alive and well in America.”
So is censorship, Locke said, adding it’s not right for social media to decide what’s right and what’s wrong.
In that, Locke has allies among the state’s leading conservatives.
“There is an obvious bias with these social media companies,” said state Rep. Jeremy Faison, chair of the legislature’s GOP Caucus.
“Social media would do themselves a favor if they didn’t work so hard to help shape public opinion and just let their platforms be a public square.”
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Reach Brad Schmitt at email@example.com or 615-259-8384 or on Twitter @bradschmitt.