Twitter’s Ban on Trump Shows Where Power Now Lies
It was a perfect match, and Mr. Trump soon began refining the free-running style of the stream of consciousness that would become its signature. For years he used the platform to weigh everything from wind turbines (ugly) to President Barack Obama’s birth certificate (fake) to Jon Stewart’s comedy (overrated). Mr. Trump’s no-filter considerations turned out to be engagement gold for Twitter, which recommended his tweets to millions of new users through its algorithms.
Social media became an even more powerful asset for Mr. Trump when he turned to politics. And after being elected president, thanks in large part to his dominance on Twitter and Facebook, he used his accounts in ways no world leader ever had: to announce key policies, harass foreign governments, raise votes in Congress, seniors hire and fire officials and interact with a colorful crew of racists and cranks.
Over time, we learned that the version of President Trump we saw on our feeds was in many ways more real than the flesh and blood person who occupied the Oval Office. People who wanted to know what Mr. Trump actually thought of a kneeling NFL player or spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi didn’t watch him read a prepared speech or hold a press conference. They looked at @realDonaldTrump, the most honest representation of who he was.
The most predictable outcome of Mr Trump’s dismissal from Twitter – and most likely a similar ban he will receive from Facebook after the day of inauguration – is that it will become a rallying call for conservatives who see themselves as victims of Silicon Valley censorship .
“We live Orwell’s 1984,” raged the President’s son, Donald Trump Jr., on his Twitter account (still working, 6.5 million followers). “In America there is no longer any free speech. It died with great technology. “
No serious thinker believes that Twitter and Facebook, as private companies, are obliged to provide a platform for every user, just as no one doubts that a restaurant owner can start an unruly dinner to create a scene. However, there are legitimate questions about whether a small handful of unelected technical executives who are accountable only to their boards of directors and shareholders (and in the case of Mr. Zuckerberg, none) should wield such enormous power. These measures also raise longer-term questions such as: B. whether the business models of social media companies are fundamentally compatible with a healthy democracy or whether a generation of Twitter-addicted politicians can ever learn the lesson that collecting retweets is a safer way to power than to govern responsibly.
Mr Trump’s ban will have a noticeable impact on the spread of disinformation about the 2020 election, much of which can be attributed to his accounts. It will also likely hasten the fragmentation of the American Internet by partisan standards, a process that was already underway, and reinforce calls for the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which puts social media companies from legal liability for their Internet protects user contributions.