With lockdown and the 21st century joining forces to arm social media more than ever and foster its incredible growth, it’s no surprise that politicians have tried to monopolise social media to reach their target audience.
One man who certainly took advantage was Donald Trump. We use the past tense because, as you will have heard, the president – soon to be former – has been banned from pretty much every mainstream social media platform there is.
The Naughty Corner
Whilst we’re not one to cover a political story, we think this one sits steadfastly in our domain. After inciting violence and spreading misinformation, which passively encouraged the actions at the US Capitol Riots, the social media giants decided enough was enough.
Sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Amazon, Reddit, Snapchat and Twitch have suspended Trump’s accounts. Shopify had all trump merchandise and his personal brand removed. Even TikTok and Pinterest, with which Trump does not have an account, took action by removing content violations and redirecting/banning hashtags like #StormTheCapitol, #StopTheSteal and #PatriotParty.
Even Parler, a favourite among Trump supporters, was cut off by Amazon Web Services after users violated its terms of service. The action followed Google and Apple’s decision to remove the Parler app from their app stores.
Needless to say, this erasing of Trump from social media disables the president from communicating to the masses.
Freedom of Speech: A Messy Debate
Of Twitter, Trump said at the beginning of his presidency: “I’m going to be very restrained, if I use it at all”. Au contraire, Donald arguably exploited the platform better than any other politician – aggressively tweeting day and night throughout his term, enabling his followers to experience White House real-life in real-time. He tapped into the #NoFilter reality TV trend, and it worked… very well.
So, with this latest ban, and all of Trump’s actions, comes controversy. The president’s supporters and even far-left liberals have an issue with the social filtering as they say it contradicts their constitution’s first amendment.
For the non-Americans out there: “The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
So, is Trump’s social media ban now impeding his free speech? Short answer: yes. Long answer: freedom of speech, on social or otherwise, can be harmful, and any country’s overriding intention is of course to protect the country and its people.
There are still outstanding questions: Will Trump be permanently banned from all social media outlets? Will his ban be lifted when he becomes a mere citizen? If he is cut off on social media, how will be communicate to his faithful followers?
Trump, who leaves office on 20th January, has some options. He could turn to the conservative platform Gab (a free-speech site with almost zero censorship rules), tap into ally networks such as Fox News or set up his own social platform. I’ll leave the final words with the man himself, via a good old fashioned, sensationalist tweet:
“We have been negotiating with various other sites, and will have a big announcement soon, while we also look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future”.