The US president is reportedly worth$ 2bn to the social networking service. So is that why hes able to continually breach its terms of service with impunity?
Imagine, for a moment, that the tweeting chairperson fell silent. That the wings were clipped. Imagine that threats of nuclear campaign were no longer casually tossed off from a rogue thumb.
Trump mailed 1, 002 tweets in his first six months in agency( perhaps slightly more days than he’s played golf, but not by much ). That’s in addition to the 8,144 tweets he mailed during his campaign. Obama was known as the Facebook President and Trump has become the first Twitter President. But while Obama’s e-lection was down to his social media as a campaigning and grassroots funding tool, helped along by Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, Trump’s attachment to Twitter is still much personal. After all, despite Facebook’s role in Obama’s victory, he didn’t have his own Facebook page until 2015.
Trump occasionally applies Twitter in a constructive manner( to announce policies ), but more often he tweets like a petty, pugilistic teen or a troll. Twitter, of course, is notorious for not dealing with abuse well. It’s why former CEO Dick Costolo told employees he was ” candidly ashamed “ at how the company “sucked” at dealing with mistreat. It’s why corporations such as Disney backed away from a buyout. It’s partly why a select committee address the question in the UK and Yvette Cooper set up the Reclaim the Internet campaign. It’s why consumers have often staged protests or left wholly( hi, Ed Sheeran ). The company is on the defensive, with co-founder Biz Stone tweeting:” Y’all pile on us. You actually imagine the issue doesn’t weigh on us? And you’re so dismissive of the Trust and Safety team. We’re all people .”
The platform’s words of service reference a wide variety of offences, but these are applied haphazardly. For a company obsessed with doing better at “transparency”, apparently releasing a statement to this influence every month, its decisions are nearly always opaque. Inquiries usually elicit the standard reaction that the company does not comment on individual cases.
Frequently, instances of misogynistic, racist, antisemitic abuse are kept online, even after these blatant breaches of terms of service have been reported. High-profile men with track records of abusive use have been suspended or banned only after sustained pressure( for example, rightwing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos after his sustained hate campaign against the actor Leslie Jones; rapper Azealia Bank, who gushed racist venom at popping vocalist Zayn Malik ).
It is undisputed that Trump breaks a number of words as defined in the small print: abusive tweets( including other users’ manages ); threatening tweets; retweeting antisemitic memes. But it’s a pie-in-the-sky notion that Trump would ever be banned, right? The rationale Twitter commits for not banning him is that his tweets fall under” newsworthiness“, a defense that wasn’t afforded performer Rose McGowan, who was suspended for doxing– these best practices of broadcasting private datum- while contributing a worldwide dialogue on sexual abuse. The Weinstein story, of course, is the biggest of the past month- wouldn’t removing the tweet have been sufficient? Twitter wants it both styles: to be viewed as a tech company and not a media company, but maintaining that “newsworthiness” is a core part of its service. If that is the case, then it should be taking proper editorial decisions and adopting the responsibilities of a publisher.
What if Twitter did the brave, unthinkable thing: took a stand and banned Trump? Impossible? Well, Silicon Valley has opposed the mogul in other ways. A trio of Facebook, Google and Microsoft CEOs all criticised Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. Intel, Under Armour, Uber and SpaceX representatives( including Elon Musk) stood down from Trump’s tech council. In reality, so many company representatives left from Trump’s economic advisory council that he had to disband it. But the problem for Twitter, without stating the obvious, is that Trump is the most powerful human in the world- pissing him off probably isn’t a great suggestion. But there’s a second reason- Twitter might need Trump. The chairman has helped increase engagement on the platform- and added value to the brand.
Yet Trump hasn’t done much to increase the number of users( people don’t need to sign up to Twitter when media outlets report his every tweet ). He’s has added merely two million daily active customers to Twitter( though 72 million to Facebook ), and even that impact has levelled off. But Forbes still estimates that he is worth around$ 2bn to the company, precisely because news outlets pick up his tweets and increase brand-name recognition. But might it be the case that in taking such a monumental stand to banning him, the entire world would reward the company?
On the one hand, I can’t imagine better PR, but that’s from the perspective of a liberal journalist. Twitter presumably has one eye on its developing rightwing base( though not when it comes to discounting neo-Nazi invective ). Despite the fact that, as a private corporation, Twitter is under no obligation to protect Trump’s first amendment rights, one can imagine the “alt-right” commotion. But detoxifying the platform is clearly something that users want to happen( unlike the unwanted changes Twitter pushes on us all the time ), and would have the additional benefits of appealing to advertisers put off by its toxic reputation. Guess it did happen, what would Trump do? Eventually get his press conference in order? Invest more time on Instagram and sending snaps( his digital functioning employs both platforms, headed up by digital administrator Brad Parscale )? Would Jared Kushner call in Silicon Valley favour from his tech bro sidekicks who helped teach him how to harness social media most effectively? Would the billionaire Mercers behind Cambridge Analytica set up an entirely new platform? Trump’s probably not going to set up a Tumblr account and fill it with photographs of felines in Make America Great Again caps. Or would he just start endlessly texting Fox News reporters to get his message out there? One wag’s solution was for Twitter to not ban but only mute Trump, so he tweeted forever into an abyss, and the rest of us could live in peace.
Of course, the idea that one of the biggest companies in the world would ban one of the most important people in the world is unprecedented. But so much of what Trump does and how he behaves is unprecedented. We are living in bizarre days indeed. That’s why it is not hyperbole to write that in banning Trump, Twitter would be changing “the worlds”. And isn’t that what tech is supposed to be all about- disruption?