It’s been a dull, slightly vapid world since the coronavirus took a large bite of what we were used to calling our lives, and spat it back at us in a chewed-up, mangled form of that which we readily recognise. Something interesting has surfaced recently, however, and it’s more entertaining and far more exciting than watching ‘Bewildered’ Biden struggle with complicated things like words.
Donald Trump is apparently planning to bounce back with regard to Twitter, the social media giant which, somewhat memorably, chose to ban Trump in the aftermath of the Capitol riots, for which Twitter blamed Trump.
Citing concerns that Trump was liable to incite violence further, Twitter took the final step, and graduated from merely suspending his account to actually deleting it.
At the time, Trump was incandescent. He immediately utilised his official presidential Twitter account to accuse the company of being in cahoots with the Democrats in order to silence both himself and his supporters. Within minutes, these tweets, too, were deleted from Twitter.
An alternative to mainstream social networking services, Parler has been derided worldwide for association with conservatives and others located on the right-wing of the political spectrum. Parler, for its part, points out that it is unbiased and does not collect data about its users. That, for one, is something that is harder and harder to believe of service providers like Twitter and Facebook which employ people to ‘police’ what is published and what is deemed unsavoury.
Parler, however, due to its association with Trump, Trump supporters and those located further to the right of the political spectrum has, in effect, been silenced. It’s one thing having a social media platform, quite another if that platform becomes homeless as a result of being banned from Amazon, Google, and Apple. Without a home, a social media platform becomes an irrelevance. Parler has tried to come back from being unceremoniously dumped by mainstream platforms, but has not come even close to challenging the dominance of the aggressively liberal social media that dominates the world.
That, however, may be about to change.
Donald Trump has changed his mind about Twitter. Initially fuming at the way a private company chose to treat the President of the USA, a stunning decision in itself, historically, Trump now sees his spat with Twitter in a softer light.
Apparently after having used Twitter quite extensively for eleven years, Trump no longer regrets being denied access to the service, claiming that his new method of communication – press releases – is a far better method, allowing him to express himself in more than the Twitter limit of 280 characters.
“Frankly, they’re more elegant than tweeting,”
I wasn’t even aware that elegance was such a sought-after commodity regarding Twitter.
Now, one of Trump’s advisors, Jason Miller, has gone on record to announce that Donald Trump will soon return with “his own platform”. In an uncharacteristically coy move, however, Trump himself refused to be drawn, merely stating baldly, that: “We have a lot of options and something will happen with social media if I want it to happen.”
Well, for one main reason. What happened to Trump after he fell foul of Twitter was a first. As far as liberals are concerned, Trump got what was coming to him, having been warned about his behaviour. He broke the rules, ignored the code of conduct, and should have seen this day coming.
Trump used Twitter to great effect, more often than not catching the Democrats napping, and gaining advantage through tweeting at non-traditional times of the day, thereby ensuring that press coverage did focus more on him than on other things. Trump’s presidency was arguably defined by Twitter.
But Twitter and Facebook’s treatment of Trump is still disturbing. A democratically elected head of state was blocked from communicating via his chosen channels.
That surely demanded more discussion than we actually witnessed, didn’t it?
The problem with Trump and his messages was that some people didn’t agree with them. Fine, there’s nothing new in that, but a new dimension to this eternal situation is that these modern media platforms and their employees have decided that it is up to them to police the Internet for evidence of fake news which they will then block and/or delete.
And that, obviously, becomes problematic instantaneously: the definition of what constitutes fake news is altogether subjective, and the media giants were seen to worry about playing, albeit unwittingly, a prominent role in Trump’s 2016 election success by allowing his advertising.
Unsurprisingly, with concerns like these, Twitter began to restrict Trump’s tweets and restricted how they could be shared. Facebook considered following suit, but staff there responded to Zuckerberg’s tentative moves to follow Twitter by walking out, but by the election in 2020, Trump’s posts were accompanied by disclaimers stating that there was no evidence to back up the claims he was making.
There is obviously no way to undo what has been done, but by responding to pressure to rein in conservative opinion and opinion-makers on their platform, Twitter and Facebook have, once again, drawn attention to the way in which they operate.
Twitter’s decision to ban Trump provoked rare criticism from Angela Merkel. Her spokesman, Steffen Seibart told reporters that:
“... the chancellor considers it problematic that the accounts of the U.S. president have now been permanently blocked.”
And that from a woman who was raised and politically trained in communist East Germany!
Beyond the obvious mess that we can expect to develop as media companies continue along their chosen path of self-righteous regulation of all that which is, from one point or another, considered suspect, there is another lurking danger which will also naturally have an impact on these service providers. The companies providing the world with a means of communicating are subject to the potentially fickle whims of their users.
These companies are, for all their tree-hugging credos, capitalist businesses at heart. By disenfranchising what is traditionally regarded as the most powerful person in the world, they have bared their fangs leaving their conservative users in no doubt about what to expect. Just as the most powerful man in the world was unceremoniously silenced, so have many others been disciplined for posts which were deemed, by some anonymous company police officer, to be ‘wrong’.
If these companies continue to follow this line, the line of trying to re-educate conservatives to think in a more ‘acceptable’ manner then the day will undoubtably come when conservative users will abandon the platform, feeling correctly that they are being treated as second-class citizens.
When that happens, the capitalist business minds behind such companies as Twitter and Facebook will react and it is to be expected that a period of back-pedalling will follow. No doubt, these ‘woke capitalists’ will try to continue to walk the tightrope of pandering to liberals whilst taking and making money off the backs of all. That will either succeed or fail, but if Trump succeeds in setting up a rival service, it’s entirely possible that obscurity will slowly swallow Twitter and Facebook.
Nothing lasts forever, and if Twitter and Facebook become exclusively inhabited by people of the same liberal opinion, then boredom will soon follow.
And after boredom comes death.