Twitter acts as an editor, and for Trump it is not good news


On November 6, on the third anniversary of his election as President of the United States, Donald Trump broke the record high: writing more words in his tweets than James Joyce had used in “Ulysses” (apparently 265,222). Twitting is by far the most expensive activity of every POTUS day, the acronym with which the White House tenant is identified in service communications. The site, which records all its invectives, reports and selfadulation on the microblogging platform, counted 38 tweets yesterday, 26 May: the first at 7.05 am to remember an alleged failure of Joe Biden at the time of the H1N1 epidemic, swine flu in 2009; the last at 11.07 pm with a re-tweet of what was written by a Fox News presenter, Gregg Jarrett, to remark Trump’s male reaction to his colleague Maria Bartiromo who had asked him how much, in his opinion, Barack Obama was informed about first investigations on Russiagate (“… everything”, had been the answer).

However, they are the second and third tweets of the day, both at 7.17 on Tuesday Washington time, to change the story of the relationship between Trump and his most popular social media. And, perhaps, of the future of social media tout court. The two tweets must be read in sequence, which for simplicity I translate into an imprint: “There is no way (any!) To ensure that the vote by correspondence is not substantially fraudulent. PO boxes will be robbed, ballot papers falsified and even illegally printed and signed fraudulently. The governor of California is sending cards to millions of people: anyone who lives in the state, no matter who he is or how he got there, will receive one. Some people in charge will tell all these people, many of whom never thought of voting, how and for whom to vote. This will be a rigged election. There is no way it doesn’t go like this! “. Triggering the morning alarm of The Donald was probably something he just listened to on Fox News, his main source of personal information.

The mail-order business is technical and, frankly, secondary to the Covid-19 tragedy that is sweeping the Americas. The fact is that this time Twitter did not let Trump spread his daily fake news without intervening. After a few minutes, at the bottom of the two presidential posts, this sentence appeared with the related link: “Check here the facts on the vote by correspondence”. By clicking on it, you enter a page managed by the social network where all the positions on the initiative to have more voters voted by correspondence are highlighted in order to ensure greater participation in the presence of the coronavirus epidemic.

Basically, Twitter has corrected coram populo the President of the United States, pointing out that his version of the facts is partial: having 80 million followers, it is not irrelevant that he tells the truth or the false, that he gives correct or misleading information. This change of line of the network founded by Jack Dorsey puts Trump in the same condition as any user, to whom the corporate policy prohibits bullying, harassment, “hate speeches”, the spread of fake news, etc. Twitter is known to grant special exemptions to the president and other political figures for tweets that would constitute violations for ordinary citizens. It does this because being able to evaluate what people with institutional positions write is still useful, even when the tweets contain lies: that is, they are posts considered to be of public interest. The intervention on foot united on Trump, however, means that, just over four months after the presidential election, the limits of the extended fence guaranteed so far have also been exceeded.

Also yesterday, however, the social network has not branded a violent tweet regarding an as false or inaccurate cold case which would involve a TV host and a former Florida MP accused by POTUS of having caused the death of a young collaborator twenty years ago. Many commentators stressed the difference in the treatment of tweets on mail-order voting and that on the “Scarborough-Klausutis case”. It may be, but the news is different from the media: since yesterday Twitter is in effect a publisher. Not an editorial platform where anyone writes what they want but a medium where everyone is subject to the same rules, as happens in a newspaper, on a television talk show, on a radio information program, on a news and comment site. Newspapers that have editors who answer for what is written, shown or said. That provide for the presence of a manager who controls and recalls or even excludes those who do not comply with the rules of conduct established by the landlord. For Trump it is not good news, for press freedom and democracy yes. We will soon see the effects.

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