The honeymoon between Trump and social media is over / Other News – Voices Against the Tide / Blog / Home


Social media are now an essential element of contemporary political communication and / or propaganda: platforms such as Twitter or Facebook amplify the potential of a message to reach its recipient, regardless of where it is or when it has the opportunity to read it. Being social is a necessary requirement for politics and everyone has understood the lesson: an incalculable multitude of political actors express themselves on the same platforms, ranging from the provincial politician who makes an election campaign to become a member of the city council, to the Secretary General of the UN that makes statements on the international crisis or world shift day, passing through the Taliban spokesman who speaks on the peace process -it is not a random hyperbole, Suhail Shaheen has a Twitter account if it ever interests you- until, obviously, to the President of the United States of America.

We got to observe the strait – we could even venture morbidly – the relationship between Donald Trump and social media, especially Twitter. Reducing the causes of Trump’s election to his intense activity on Twitter and Facebook is certainly an understatement, but at the same time it is impossible to deny that they played an important role in the dissemination and promotion of his political message. Both before and during his tenure, Trump gave us tweets that are difficult to forget, but the relationship between the President and Twitter seems to be going through a particularly difficult moment.

The relationship between Trump and Twitter began to deteriorate on Wednesday 27 May, when the company decided to report as a misleading a President’s tweet about alleged electoral fraud that would occur with the postal vote, placing a link on the post that refers to an CNN article. so as to allow the fact-checking of the content of the post. It is not the first time that the company removes or intervenes with tweets of Heads of State, but the first in which it allows itself to interfere with a post of none other than the President of the United States, who has obviously threatened retaliation.

No sooner said than done, on Thursday 28 May, Trump went “facts”, by signing the executive order that should initiate the revision of Section 230 of the Communication Decency Acts of 1996. If you still don’t know what this phantom Section 230 consists of, we can to say, in very simple terms, that it makes a fundamental distinction between the category of publishers and the managers of web sites, for which the latter cannot be held responsible for the contents that are published on the platforms they manage.

Trump supporters, however, argue that an operator of an online platform, when intervening on posts, even simply by adding warnings or by fact checking content, should cease to be protected by Section 230, since it becomes assimilable to a publisher. Beyond the debate about the legitimacy or otherwise of these arguments, it is important to note that the legislative process for reviewing Section 230 will be long and complex and could extend well beyond the November elections.

Twitter, on the other hand, reacted immediately, placing itself in growing opposition to the President. Specifically, on Friday, Trump, in a moment of pause between one inspection of the bunker and the other, – in fact, as he stated in an interview with Fox News, was absolutely not brought into the bunker for reasons of security, but for a very credible inspection – the controversial tweeted “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” (When you start to plunder, you start shooting). After endless reports from users, the post was therefore hidden from Twitter, although not removed, since it violated the rules of the platform regarding the exaltation of violence.

The skirmish continued in the following days, during which several posts of the President were subject to fact checking. The latest humiliation was the removal of a video about George Floyd of about four minutes, in which a Trump speech could be heard accompanied by background images and videos: among other things, in the video, the President says that rioters, looters and anarchists have dishonored the memory of George Floyd and that antifa and radical leftist groups are at the head of the violence. The official reason was the copyright infringement, but we are facing a clear stance on Twitter.

As Twitter gradually became increasingly involved in the confrontation, Facebook, for its part, silently tried to slip away. The social media par excellence refused to remove or obscure the posts and Zuckerberg clumsily tried to adopt a compromise position, stating that he personally disagreed with Trump’s positions, but that everyone should be in a position to judge for themselves and that, in essence, Facebook’s purpose is to encourage as open a discussion as possible. On the other hand, it was made known that Zuckerberg had an interview with Trump on May 29, although we do not know anything about the content of the call except that it was a “productive” interview, as it has been defined.

Zuckerberg therefore desperately tried to escape the conflict, but the controversial businessman found himself accused of connivance with power. To the criticisms from users and representatives of civil society were added those of his own and his own employees, who used all the means provided by the platform itself – post and messages – to express their dissent. Zuckerberg found himself in an unenviable position, squeezed between President Trump’s anvil and the hammer of users and employees of the platform.

So, on Friday, Zuckerberg apparently made his choice, announcing that Facebook, taking note of the criticisms received, will review its content review policies. Moreover, fact checking and removal of content that incites or enhances violence are already in force for standard users and it is therefore not clear why, if not for reasons of convenience, this should not also apply to politicians.

Facebook, cornered, is therefore trying, at least according to the statements of its CEO, to chase Twitter. First of all, it will be necessary to verify whether these words will translate into facts and whether in Zuckerberg’s assessments the desire to maintain good relations with Trump will prevail or the fear of being overcome by the competitor Twitter and of the reactions of users and employees. Twitter has taken the first step and Facebook seems to have finally decided to chase it.

by Guglielmo Rezza – OTHERNEWS

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