The US president has openly mused about shutting down Twitter. This in response to a tweet that Twitter fact-checked.
Impeached US president, Donald Trump is, as usual, making comments that is catching controversy. While this is an every day occurrence for him, this one is noteworthy for us. The tweet in question is this:
In the event the tweet gets deleted:
Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that….
The thing is, Trump has been using Twitter as a springboard to launch his political attacks, personal attacks, and conspiracy theories for some time. Some have argued that Twitter is allowing this in part because it has helped the platform remain relevant for so long.
Critics have long argued that Trump has violated the rules of Twitter on countless occasions. They point to how much the media pays attention to his Twitter feed as a reason why they are seemingly allowing this. This is, of course, over top of how some media outlets have accused social media platforms of allowing disinformation to permeate over the networks.
Of course, these comments come after Trump issued what many called false statements about mail-in ballots. Here are the comments:
There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone…..
….living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!
In response to these comments, Twitter attached a warning label urging users to get the facts about mail-in ballots. In the warning message, they linked to some resources talking about mail-in ballots.
Many will no doubt see these open musings of shutting down Twitter in retaliation to the warning labels. Of course, the legal ability for a US president to arbitrarily shut down Twitter is dubious at best. Some suggest that such a move is unconstitutional.
Whether or not Trump would actually carry through with these threats is debatable. During his presidency, Trump openly threatened to open up the liable laws and changing them so that he could sue news websites that offer coverage that he sees as unfavourable to him. That, of course, never happened. So, that may be a reason to think that he wouldn’t actually carry through with these threats as well.
On the other hand, Trump has carried through with his threats and attempted to exact revenge on people he sees as rivals. An example of that is his push to force the United States Postal Service to try and raise the rates of shipping on Amazon simply because Trump has effectively declared war on Jeff Bezos. So, this opens the possibility that he might try and carry through his threats as well.
Of course, everything about this is senseless and short-sighted to begin with – which does follow Trump’s MO. Losing Twitter altogether means one less platform Trump can reach out to people in the first place. This goes against Trump’s never-ending thirst for 24/7 attention. So, there is reason to believe Twitter does have cards they can play here.
The only thing in all of this that can be lost in the debate is that this threat is also a threat to other users who use Twitter. If Twitter is all some users know, that does threaten their ability to express themselves. This aspect should be something digital rights should latch on to because it is a threat to free speech.
How much this story will have legs after the initial storm from Trumps tweetstorm remains unclear. For all we know, we’ll be through multiple other Trump disasters before the week is out and this will become a distant political memory by next month. Given the chaotic and unpredictable presidency, though, who really knows for sure?