EXPLANATORS How will Trump get his message across without social media?
WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (Reuters) – Tech companies’ decision to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to speak to followers over mainstream social media could force him to be in his final days. Using more traditional communication methods or more isolated conservative online channels in the office, experts say.
Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), Facebook Inc (FB.O), Alphabet Inc. Google (Demokratie.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) have taken their toughest measures to date against. seized Trump to narrow his reach fearing continued violence from his posts after his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol last week. Then there were smaller tech companies like Twitch, Snapchat, Reddit, Shopify and TikTok. Continue reading
Trump, who has questioned the validity of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 election victory without evidence, praised and spurred supporters before they besieged the Capitol on Wednesday, where lawmakers upheld the electoral college vote for Biden. Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died in the attack. Continue reading
Apple, Google, and Amazon have suspended Parler – a pro-Trump app that users threatened to use more violence on – from their respective app stores and web hosting services in a series of measures that could seriously hamper the service. Continue reading
The platform has 12 million users and Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric are active on it, but they now have to find a new web host to replace Amazon in order to stay in business at all.
HOW CAN TRUMP REACH HIS FOLLOWERS?
Immediately after the Twitter ban – a platform the president has been obsessed with since his first candidacy and on which he spoke regularly to his 88 million followers – Trump vowed “not to be silenced!” and promised a “big announcement soon”.
Trump also tweeted shortly after the @POTUS Twitter account was banned, railing against the tech company, the Democrats, and an internet company protection act called Section 230, saying he was considering building his own social media platform. His tweets were deleted by the company almost immediately.
But it will take time to hit yourself. For the moment, Trump, who is stepping down on January 20, has alternatives like the conservative online platform Gab, a free speech network without censorship rules that has far less reach.
Helpers and supporters are already turning to Gab and the MeWe platform to reinforce their messages in the coming days, experts said. Other likely outlets include Rumble video platform and video streaming service DLive, as well as alternative news sites like American Media Periscope, said Monica Stephens, an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo whose research focuses on topics such as social media.
“I don’t think Trump will join these smaller platforms himself. He’s more likely to create something himself than to join something that is under someone else’s control, ”she said.
In the meantime, he can tap into Trump-friendly networks like Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax to get his message across. The other unused option is the White House press office, experts said. He can continue to hold briefings or distribute statements and videos until the end of his term of office.
WHAT DO HIS FOLLOWERS AND SUPPORTERS SAY?
Immediately after the Twitter ban, supporters like Angela Stanton-King, a Republican supporter of the QAnon conspiracy group who ran in November, started there around the 5th.
Others like the conservative media presenter Rush Limbaugh have deactivated their Twitter accounts.
Numerous Republican lawmakers condemned the decisions of the social media companies as an attempt to suppress conservative voices, arguing that the moves would polarize the country further.
“We now live in a country where four or five companies – not elected, not accountable – have the power, have a monopoly to decide, we’re going to wipe people out, we’re going to just wipe them out from any kind of digital platform” said Senator Marco Rubio on Fox News.
Some liberal freedom of expression activists were also uncomfortable with the move. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, defended the right of Twitter and others to “curate their platforms,” but called for greater transparency and consistency in decision-making.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it should “affect everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unhindered power to remove people from platforms that have become essential to the talk of billions”.
CAN ONLINE PLATFORMS CLOSE TRUMP AND ITS FOLLOWERS?
Silicon Valley companies have tried often, often without much success, to track those peddling malicious content – from disinformation to elections to hate speech and violent threats – but their actions over the past few days have been the toughest yet.
The first amendment to the constitution that guarantees freedom of expression does not generally apply to private sector corporations and allows them to moderate violent speech on their platforms.
“I think there has been a legitimate public interest in getting the president and his vote on Twitter and other platforms for the past four years. But what he’s done has clearly exceeded any reasonable public interest,” said Chris Krebs. former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
Reporting by Nandita Bose and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Chris Sanders and Peter Cooney
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