To most of the world, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are deeply flawed and have come under fire for promoting hate speech and failing to self-regulate. Then there’s Donald Trump, who seems to think these platforms work just fine. Or they did until recently when alt right shock jock Alex Jones was suspended from Twitter, Apple, and Facebook. Now Donald Trump is accusing “Social Media Giants” of “silencing millions of people.”
Social Media Giants are silencing millions of people. Can’t do this even if it means we must continue to hear Fake News like CNN, whose ratings have suffered gravely. People have to figure out what is real, and what is not, without censorship!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2018
Disregard for a moment the irony that Trump shared this proclamation on the Great Silencing Machine of Twitter. Why would be so angry at social media platforms right now? Is it really about Alex Jones?
Maybe, or maybe it’s about something even bigger, like the 2020 election. From Cambridge Analytica’s profiling of 50 million Facebook accounts, to targeted Russian-born alt right propaganda, even Mark Zuckerberg himself admitted some fault in how Facebook operated during the last election cycle, telling the Senate Committee earlier this year, “[I]t’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.” As of this week, Facebook’s ongoing investigation on the matter led to the banning of 652 pages from Russia and Iran. What were they posting? Alt right propaganda, which you can see for yourself here. Twitter banned a few hundred Iran-based accounts, too, along with more bans on Instagram and YouTube.
Whether or not unregulated social media rife with foreign meddling handed Trump the election may still be up for some measure of debate. But one thing is certain: These platforms offered a boon to his campaign and made it easy to spread misinformation. Trump, it seems, doesn’t want them to change. He has a good reason.