What people were hoping for (or worried about) has finally happened: Twitter has suspended Trump’s account permanently:
Part of me says: more power to American democracy that a corporation can summarily ban the head of state. Imagine doing so in India!
Facebook has also banned Trump for an indefinite period of time. Deplatforming Trump has been a demand in the liberal sphere for a very long time, but it’s only happened after he lost the presidency, the run off elections in Georgia (so that both the executive and the legislature belong to the Democrats) and after direct incitement to violence from Trump that led to the storming of the Capitol. Trump tried to subvert the ban by using his presidential account but that too was blocked.
Some worry that Trump’s voice will just migrate to Parler or some other social network but Google has already pulled Parler from the Android app store and Apple has given them a 24 hour warning to police the conversation or else. That still leaves the 4Chans and 8Chans but that’s not where grandmothers go to receive their fake news.
Here’s the current list of outlets where’s he’s been blocked or banned - includes Reddit, Twitch, Shopify, Pinterest, TikTok (sweet revenge!), Snapchat alongside Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Since they aren’t the only platform that’s banning Trump, Twitter, Facebook etc likely coordinated their response; it’s also possible that they received credible evidence that Trump was going to use their platform to incite further violence, especially during the Inaugural, where he will be conspicuous by his absence. They haven’t made any such evidence public. Instead, the decision has the feel of a CYA.
Most of my liberal friends are celebrating the decision, but I think it’s a really bad idea. It gives the tech giants a free pass on years and years of profit seeking from anger and falsehoods and only removes one individual’s capacity - however dramatic - to influence what people choose to believe. Ben Thompson at Stratechery has a thoughtful piece that argues the opposite. He starts with the following claim:
Liberalism is a double edged sword: it prohibits the use of violence to further one’s political aims but it also protects the private property of corporations and gives them the right to do as they please, including deplatforming a sitting president.
Trump, Parler and Qanon could sue to be reinstated but again, I don’t see how a Supreme Court that’s designed to protect the property rights of corporations will rule in their favor. Instead of a national conversation on how to regulate speech in social media and a principled (and constitutional?) answer to these questions, what we are getting is a massive assertion of market power by already dominant corporations.
Don’t get me wrong: authoritarians have to be resisted at every step and aggressive moves are needed, but doing so by handing over even more power to corporations - they are now truly too big to fail - just because they happen to agree with your form of social liberalism (while resisting any attempt to regulate their business models) is going down a very slippery slope.
I also think interpreting Trumps crimes and misdemeanors legalistically suits the interests of the tech giants - it becomes a yes or no on ‘did Trump break the rules?’ rather than the structural damage being done by corporations that are bending the rules everyday and hollowing out the system in the process.