Social media networks Twitter and Facebook have finally done what many had been calling for months, if not years. That is, ban the now-outgoing US President Donald Trump from social media. Twitter has finally banned Donald Trump’s Twitter account, and indeed when he tried to circumvent the ban with other accounts, two of those got detected, and has tweets deleted.
Facebook meanwhile has said that it is making Trump’s ban on Facebook and Instagram indefinite. But why did it take so long for Twitter and Facebook to act, just as the presidency term for Trump is in its last leg with just a few more days remaining for Trump in the White House.
Over the last few years, time and again, Twitter and Facebook have particularly been at the receiving end of criticism for giving Donald Trump and his views platform, free to use as he pleased. We may not have to go too long into the past to understand; how these big tech companies, now trying to get good PR by de-platforming Donald Trump, is very much a part of the problem. The first real cursory move that Twitter; made against Trump, hoping to garner some love and support, was back in June 2020 when the protests; in the US cities were peaking after the absolutely shocking video of 46-year-old Minnesota resident George Floyd’s death by the police, led to angry reactions.
In the tweet, that Twitter took semi-hid behind a public notice, Trump wrote the line, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” There’s a historical significance attached to that phrase. In December 1967, violence had broken out during the Republican National Convention in Miami. The then Miami Police Chief Walter Headley had reportedly said “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. He introduced a “get though” policing policy that involved the use of shotguns, dogs, and aggressive “stop and frisk” tactics in black neighbourhoods in an attempt to reduce the crime rate.
Before any of you paint Twitter as the saviour of all things humanity; with a newly found conscience, the good fighting the evil and what not, let us drive down; the memory lane to see how Twitter has chosen; to deploy a completely different policy to such tweets by “world leaders”. In early 2018, Twitter had taken pains to explain that “Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets; would hide important information people should be able to see and debate. It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”
It has also cited global, public conversation. In 2019, Twitter said that they would label tweets from a politician that break the community guidelines but still leave them available for viewing. And followed through on it steadfastly, till now.
Trump in the meantime has pretty much gone to war with anyone; who has disagreed with him, using Twitter as his megaphone. He has mocked people, he has shared what can be lightly put as his version of facts, he has attacked individuals and establishments; and pretty much gauged public opinion with his tweets. The thing is, you cannot probably hold that against Trump, or any world leader Twitter gave him that platform; and he used it. Twitter has so-called community and content policies; for the rest of us but decided that world leaders are above the law.
Like Twitter, Facebook has also very much been a part of the problem. In 2016, Facebook announced a policy that said their content moderation; would allow newsworthy posts to remain visible, even if they violate the content standards. While this was packaged around the controversy of removing; a photo of historical significance, it gave Facebook enough cover to not apply strict rules; to Trump and posts made by Trump supporters.