Anti-Social Media: Twitter violated the Trump Rules about agenda propagation
Being stabbed in the back hurts. But what hurts indefinitely, is seeing an untimely epiphany of your long-term political accomplice take shape. The U.S. President — Donald Trump, is dangerously familiar with this situation, which is also what makes the Trump office a dynamic workplace.
As of May 25, 2020, the Trump White House has seen 415 dismissals and/or resignations, not accounting for ousted non-government associates-turned-foes (like Michael Cohen). The most powerful man on earth is also its most impetuous. His souring relationship with former attorney and chief fixer — Cohen — was a textbook cover-up that highlights how he treats everything unfavorable as expendable — a person, or a social media platform.
His recent adventures also include — severing ties with the World Health Organization, accusing and abusing MSNBC Host Joe Scarborough, and threatening his old mouthpiece (Twitter) for an unexpected fact-check.
For a warily long time, Twitter was the world’s window to Trump’s mind — his ideological resonator— helping him communicate and opine directly and indiscreetly, with 80 million+ people playing audience.
Trump’s affinity for Twitter was so pervasive that it had almost become a misnomer for official communique from the core administrative office of the United States. In November 2019, The New York Times wrote:
When Mr. Trump entered office, Twitter was a political tool that had helped get him elected and a digital howitzer that he relished firing. In the years since, he has fully integrated Twitter into the very fabric of his administration, reshaping the nature of presidency and presidential power.
Twitter gave Trump a free-hand to mechanize unregulated attacks on his detractors, issue threats and intimidation as a means of political arm-twisting, and established his voice as the benchmark of nationhood and national identity for the United States.
A bolt from the Blue
Trump now regurgitates allegations that social media sites are sequestering conservative opinions with biased monitoring, censorship, or filtering of content. His recent executive order seeks a restructuring of guidelines from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) essentially allowing anyone to sue social media platforms if they feel their opinions are wrongfully stifled.
No independent audit has supported claims of anti-conservative bias on social media. However, it is interesting to note that — in no instance did Twitter delete any of the president’s tweets, also leaving room for criticism that the social media site’s sudden policing was still refined tokenism at best.
In fact, the social media site refused to immediately remove Trump’s abusive tweets that accused Joe Scarborough of murdering Lori Klausutis, stating that it was best left to public conversation, even as the family of the deceased implored on the tweet’s removal.
Twitter’s ground-rule on abuse reads:
“You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.”
Many expect the president to follow through on his threat and instate measures that will abrogate Section 230 — which placed the burden of liability of offensive content on social media directly on the users and not the platform.
Political patronage is usually characterized by a great deal of chest-beating, mudslinging, and opinion hijacking. By that same virtue, Trump is as much liable for slander and defamation as the radical left he has overtly berated. If the commander-in-chief of the most powerful country in the world is able to obliterate all grounds of control because he was offended at an organization pointing out his unverified claims, it could also perpetuate authoritative exercise on social media freedom across countries with a powerful central government.
Even more importantly, if the said Section 230 is removed, who will be the rightful arbiter of what constitutes unlawful or hurtful content? Clearly not a president impeached on the grounds of abuse of power.
Contrary to Mr. Trump’s ideas, if social media platforms are made directly liable for the contents posted by others, that will spell the grounds for aggressive monitoring and greater removal of content that even mildly puts them at risk of a judicial inquiry.
Empirically, social media is a nonidentical derivative of our historical public spheres. Increased accessibility and a decentralized communication ecosystem means that social media public forums should still be treated as integers with their own regulations, constructs, and modicums of engagement.
Problem with government regulation to promote free-speech is not that it is against curbing content regulation, it is the fact that the psychology behind Trump’s claim is counterproductive.
Despite the claims of lawlessness, social media remains a sanctuary of many nuanced discussions on both sides of the spectrum. While social media hate groups point towards a dearth of effective control, movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter also foment inclusiveness, equality and progressive discourses.
Government for these safe forums would transpire into a breach of trust, especially with a leader at the helm who identifies himself with a clear bias against the Left.
Express government control can also skew the benchmarks of what may constitute discrimination. Trump’s infuriated rebuttal holding Twitter’s stoicism towards “radical left” propaganda as a counter-argument to his own fallacious tweets, coupled with proved discrepancies that emerge out of government control of free-media serve as an indicative that social media should only be monitored by fluid arguments.
Does that mean Twitter, Facebook, or any one else should forego their ground rules? No. Name-calling and encroachment over one’s personal sovereignty have never constituted a part of democratic or sociable communities and should not also be propagated in countries that pride themselves in being free states.
We the people
If anything, efforts to maintain the validity of social discussions should be left to the people. Fact-checking institutions should be mobilized to minimize the impact of misguiding chain messages across social platforms. But even then, the identification of the problem should continue to be people-driven efforts. That way participants of both ideological factions can flag offensive content, the grounds of which should be made public.
Putting faith in the audience is paramount. If you cannot trust your users to be the protectors of their own communities, your sanctuary has failed to provide them a level playing field.
Spot the red-herring
The United States is the most affected country in the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. Not only is its health system in life-support due to ineffective control of the spread, the country’s economic cushions have been flung off a cliff, and a the murder of a Black American by a white policeman (a pattern), has caused mass uprising, upending law and order in the country.
In all honestly, a (rightful) social-media fact check on a president should not be the subject of prime-time debates. Yet, Obamagate (a theorized ‘deep state’ allegation), Twitter’s audacity to fact-check its president, and unfounded accusations of Joe Scarborough have acquired considerable social media and news real-estate.
All this, while the world does not still have an answer to a fatal health crisis, or any idea of how to restart a rusting economic machinery without risking lives.
AN APPENDIX OF THE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS
- In a trademark ‘bless the hands that feed you’ pattern, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg lashed out at Twitter for fact-checking Trump’s tweets. Soon, satire websites declared him dead. [Read more]
- The NSA is not the only one earning infamy for mass surveillance. The Indian government has mandated the use of Aarogya Setu — a Covid-19 contact tracing app, the only democratic government to do so. And many are raising privacy concerns. [Read here]
- In the mean-time the India’s centralized mobile payments app — BHIM, is facing a serious data breach that has compromised 7 million people. [Read here] The National Payments Corporation of India has refuted those claims. [Read here]
- A (probable) phony $20 bill spells death for a Black American and revives the pain in the gashes of all overlooked or ostracized communities across the world. But opportunists view protests as a window for arson. [Read more]
George Floyd couldn’t breathe. We can’t either. [Read more]
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