Home / United States / Trump's "social media summit" aims to intimidate social media, not to suppress it.

Trump's "social media summit" aims to intimidate social media, not to suppress it.



Trump addressing the media on the lawn of the White House.

President Donald Trump at the White House on July 5th.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Thursday, a group of right-wing personalities including conspiracy theorists, Infowars regulars, creators of videos and even known for their racist and anti-immigrant content, Republican strategists and at least two lawmakers the GOP goes to the White House to meet the President. Donald Trump for a "Social Media Summit". According to White House spokeswoman Judd Deere, the plan is to hold "a solid conversation about the opportunities and challenges of today's online environment." These challenges include an anti-conservative bias Some of the Internet companies that Trump said in a July 1 interview with Fox are "possibly illegal."

This event follows the launch of a White House website earlier this summer with people who believe they have been wrongly censored by social media sites such as Facebook or YouTube. "No matter what you think, if you think political biases have motivated such action, share your story with President Trump," the site implored. Over the past year, Trump has taken cartridges against social media companies. This theme is not new. Last April, the House-run Judiciary Committee, led by Republicans Diamond and Silk, invited pro-Trump Facebook figures to testify as to how they were "censored" on the media. social. Earlier this year, Trump met with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to complain about the loss of his subscribers (about 0.04% of his subscribers, but nevertheless of his subscribers), a situation explained by Twitter 's efforts to remove bot accounts from its platform started last year. . (Even though Trump saw its numbers drop on some days, it went from 53.4 million followers in July of last year to 61.8 million followers now.)

While it is true that the policy of social media companies within the employee hierarchy is skewed to the left, there is no convincing evidence of an anti-conservative bias insinuating itself into major social networks. On the one hand, just look at how conservatives tend to fend for themselves on social networks. Fox News dominates Facebook: in the last 12 months, the cable network on the right has recorded 320.57 million likes, comments and shares on Facebook, or 178.97 million devices on CNN during the same period, according to CrowdTangle data. Month after month, Trump spends all the Democratic candidates gathered for his Facebook ads. The Facebook pages of Pro-Trump are titanic compared to those of their counterparts on the left ", many of which have more than one million followers. Republican and marginal voices are simply very good at social media.

Their complaints, however, often revolve around something called "shadow ban," which may mean (depending on who complains) that their messages are no longer displayed during searches, that "there is nothing wrong with them. they were not checked, that their scope was limited or that they were suspended. all together. It is true that social media sites make some figures and publications difficult to find as part of their efforts to reduce the spread of misinformation and hatred – in theory, according to codes of conduct that narrowly define this behavior. In some cases, bigotry has been so vile that Twitter or YouTube has totally launched users, as with Milo Yiannopoulos after running a racist campaign in social media against actress Leslie Jones. The fact that some critics have invoked such bans as evidence of anti-conservative bias is revealing.

The White House 's guest list, which has not yet been published, is also revealing, but many guests have bragged about being on Twitter. A maker of the same who passes by Carpe Donktum, who has already won an Infowars even contest, will be there. Radio host Bill Mitchell, who used his platforms to bolster conspiracy theories like QAnon and spark fear against "the deep state," is going away. Representatives from Prager University, which produces marginal and conservative viral videos on YouTube for an audience of over 2.2 million subscribers, are on the guest list. Charlie Kirk, the head of the conservative student group Turning Point USA, who has taken advantage of his considerable social media presence to push anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric, is going away, just like Ali Alexander, who has called on people to buy firearms in preparation James O 'Keefe, the media maker who produces video bombs and who unsuccessfully tries to fool the Washington Post about his reporting on Roy Moore, should attend. Heritage Foundation members were also invited, along with representatives Matt Gaetz from Florida and Senator Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee, among others. All these characters have one thing in common: they support Trump and a considerable audience on social networks. (As has been widely noted, companies such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have not been invited to the event.)

Why does this happen? After all, Trump can not do anything to Twitter if he feels he is silencing his followers. The platforms are private companies. The first amendment prohibits government censorship. Moderation of content by Facebook (which is not the same as banning conservative ideas, but rather means that Facebook applies its terms of service against hatred and misinformation) is legal. Twitter may remove the number of Trump followers it wishes, but again, Twitter is only deleting accounts that are bots or violating its terms of service. If YouTube wants to remove pages that peddle racism and misinformation, it is perfectly within its rights to do so. One of the reasons why Trump's social media summit participants were able to spark such excitement despite the overtly hateful rhetoric and disinformation they use for their platforms is that these platforms are protected by the Law on the Decency of Communications, adopted in 1996 that gives legal immunity to companies such as Facebook and Twitter to protect them from prosecution for what their users publish. This has allowed YouTube, Twitter and Facebook to look away for years, while fanatics and fabulists have won an incredible number of followers. The sites checked white supremacy, neo-Nazis and racists who were given a platform to spread their hatred. If the Conservatives now have a problem with Facebook banning someone like Alex Jones, who used his platform to assert that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax and inspired targeted harassment against parents of children who have lost their lives, this suggests that their movement extends ugly corners.

If Trump attacks social networking sites, he would argue in favor of removing this immunity from liability, which could open the door to the pursuit of Facebook and YouTube for hosting the type of content he seeks to promote. . This is not necessarily the worst result, but Facebook would have an even heavier hand in moderating its content, which is the opposite of what Trump wants. If rules were created that required a certain level of responsibility not to allow the dissemination of misleading information, the very people Trump invites to its summit would be the hardest hit. If Facebook were disassociated as part of an antitrust action, Trump's platform would become smaller. None of these things really benefit Trump – but the claims policy is. So he uses his tyrant pulpit, generating press to explain how he is being harmed by technology elites and creating fake enemies of Silicon Valley companies who can not fight back – for if they do, calls for Partisan bias will only widen.

There is a way in which this is intelligent. By amplifying the cries of partiality, it helps tie the hands of some of the world's most powerful corporations, making it even harder for them to conduct the kind of moderation the community needs their platforms. As long as Trump calls for censorship, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter will be forced to do something about the hate that some of the president's fans want to consume. And Trump will have a track as clear as in 2016 to play his game on social networks as he wishes.


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