Why is Twitter losing value
A private platform throws out a 74-year-old man who will no longer hold political office in eleven days. That sounds banal and yet it is one of the most important news of the young year. Because the man's name is Donald Trump and is President of the United States. With his Twitter account, he not only loses his favorite toy, but what is probably his most important stage.
Twitter has permanently blocked Trump's account to prevent the "risk of further incitement to violence," as the company writes. Three things apply equally to this decision: It is correct. It's years too late. And: It is extremely problematic.
The lock is correct: the two current tweets to which Twitter refers are almost harmless by Trump's standards. He announced that he would not show up for Biden's inauguration and promised his constituents that they would have a "GIGANTIC VOICE" for a long time.
The danger that Trump will try to torpedo a peaceful handover is too great
That alone does not justify expulsion. But you have to see Trump's tweets in the context of the events of the past few days. Twitter had just blocked the president's account for twelve hours after Trump downplayed the violent mob that stormed the Capitol. Any further violation of the rules will lead to a permanent ban, announced Twitter. With his two new tweets, Trump again spreads the lie that the election was rigged. He suggests that he is not interested in relinquishing power. In doing so, he implicitly encourages his followers to commit further acts of violence that are already being planned.
The decision will confirm Republicans' false belief that Silicon Valley is discriminating against conservatives. They will rant about supposed censorship which just consists of companies enforcing their policies. Trump and his audience will withdraw to alternative platforms and create a "social media" parallel world that is even further decoupled from reality than the bubble in which they have previously communicated. Nevertheless, there is no alternative: the risk that Trump will try to torpedo a peaceful handover is too great.
The ban comes years too late: since Trump posted his first tweet on May 4, 2009, he has ignored almost every policy that applies on Twitter. He used the platform to insult other heads of government, to threaten nuclear strikes, to spread lies and conspiracy stories, to relativize violence and to incite against the media and minorities.
His words had fatal consequences. In Charlottesville, 32-year-old Heather Heyer was run over by a neo-Nazi. Trump's tweet about it: There are "fine people on both sides". In the summer, 19 people died in protests against racism. Trump had previously openly threatened violence on Twitter. Five people were killed in the past week when radical invaders ransacked the heart of American democracy. Everything Trump could think of: "Go home. We love you. You are special."
Different rules applied to Trump than to normal users. This is understandable: what the US president is saying is newsworthy and of public interest. But Trump has defied Twitter's guidelines so often, so boldly and with such dramatic consequences that the microphone should have been withdrawn from him. On January 20, Trump not only loses his power, he would also have lost his special status on Twitter. It has now ended eleven days earlier - it was long overdue.
Politicians have to tame Silicon Valley
And yet the lock remains highly problematic: The most important communication infrastructure in the world is in the hands of a few people. A handful of men determine what can be said on the Internet. On Thursday, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg managed to block Trump's account. Now Twitter boss Jack Dorsey throws the US president out.
As a result, both decisions are correct, but the process is wrong. Platforms are more powerful than states, private corporations control access to information and draw the limits of freedom of speech. The network needs democratic control, not absolute absolute rulers. Politicians must tame Silicon Valley, also in its own interest. A great task awaits Joe Biden.
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