Trump Removed from Social Media Platforms

In an unprecedented turn of events, Twitter has permanently suspended President Trump from their social media platform after inciting last week’s riot at the US Capitol. Jack Dorsey, CEO of the company, worries that his decision will be viewed as a precedent that could make it impossible to maintain a free and open global internet in the future. In a series of 13 tweets, Dorsey explained the “offline harm” posed by Trump’s continual tweets, stating that they must be read in the context of broader events that are happening in the US and the ways in which the President’s statements have been used to mobilize his audience and incite violence.

In the span of just a couple of days, Trump was also banned or suspended from other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitch. YouTube suspended him for at least a week while Shopify removed the online stores for both his presidential campaign and the Trump Organization. Stripe decided to stop processing payments for his campaign’s website while Reddit banned the r/DonaldTrump subreddit. Discord has removed the server connected to a pro-Trump group called TheDonald.win and Parler was removed from Amazon’s server after both Google and Apple removed the app from their stores.

Facebook banned President Trump temporarily, or at least until his term in office is over. In a public Facebook post last Thursday, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg stated that the risks of letting Trump stay on Facebook ahead of the January 20th inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden were “simply too great.” The events at the Capitol reflect Trump’s determination to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful transition of power to his elected successor, Zuckerberg concluded.

Ultimately, the decision to deplatform Trump reveals just how much power companies like Facebook and Twitter possess over public debate. Deplatforming is a form of political activism by an individual, group, or organization that aims to shut down controversial speakers or speech by denying them a public outlet to express their opinion on. Whitney Phillips, one of the world’s leading experts on the rise of the far right online likens social media platforms to a factory that spews toxic pollutants into the environment. In this case, the environment happens to be US democracy.

Now what we must deal with is how social media platforms didn’t just allow, but have actively incentivized the spreading of this “pollution” for years, allowing it to build up in the environment for so long and become internalized by an enormous percentage of the population. You can take Parler away but you can’t take away the beliefs in tens of millions of people that the election was stolen, said Phillips.

The core algorithms and business models of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are in part to blame for the series of events leading up to last Wednesday’s violent insurrection at the Capitol because these platforms amplify content that provokes an emotional reaction. Researchers who study disinformation say that deplatforming can be successful in reducing the number of people that misinformation reaches but it will do nothing to de-radicalize already radical populations of people.

Written by: Kelly Stewart

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