Trump boycott shows: ‘Social media referees over free word’

After Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, Donald Trump has also been banned from his YouTube account this week. It is unprecedented that a world leader on all these social media platforms can no longer share a message.

Twitter is the only one who has permanently deleted the American president‘s profile. With other Heads of State, messages have been deleted or the account was temporarily blocked, but Trump is the first person not allowed to return since the entry of these rules, the company confirms. The rest of the platforms are currently a temporary ban on posting messages.

Regardless of whether the boycott is justified, it raises questions as to how much influence these companies can have on public debate and freedom of expression.

For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Trump’s blockade โ€œproblematicโ€ this week. It considers that only the judicial and legislative authority should be able to take such a decision, ‘rather than the management of a social media platform’.

CCEit on 3 explains what Donald Trump, and we also, still notice of a 25 year old law:

At the touch of a button, the president lost direct access to 88 million followers on Twitter. 35 million followers on Facebook, 24 million on Instagram and 2.7 million on YouTube won‘t get new posts from Trump for the time being. It is a decision that was unthinkable years ago, explains Professor of Political Communication Claes de Vreese (UVA).

โ€œ For a long time, these companies have said: we are not about the content. But the fact that they are now moving to suspending accounts temporarily or not is very striking.โ€

Stefan Kulk, professor of technology and law (UU) describes it as a new chapter. โ€œA few private companies from the United States are increasingly becoming referees about what you can or can’t say online.โ€

‘Calls to force’

The tech companies contradict this in a reaction to DeccEit. For example, Facebook says that it is โ€œnot up to private companies to make decisions about fundamental, democratic values. But it is important to stress that we do remove content from politicians that can cause injury, discourage voters from voting, or where there is hate.โ€

According to Facebook (also owner of Instagram), Trump has repeatedly violated that border in the period surrounding the storm of the Capitol in Washington D.C. Twitter refers to this reasoning why Trump was removed. Based on two tweets of January 8, the company ruled that it โ€œprobably inspires othersโ€ to violence, such as the occupation of the Capitol.

In this video you can see how the peaceful pro-Trumprotest turned into the storming of the American Parliament:

Google (owner of YouTube) also says in a response that Trump has driven violence. The same three strikes system is used as for all users. That means he can‘t upload anything for a week. A second strike would be for a period of two weeks. Three strikes in 90 days will delete the account.

After the violent storming of the Capitol, prominent Democrats immediately called for the president’s exile on social media. As well as 300 employees of Twitter itself. The Democrats and some of the Republican politicians believe that Trump has encouraged the violent occupation of the parliament building. There‘s a deposition procedure against the president.

Trump has a hard time fighting the social media blockages. In the end, these are commercial platforms that are allowed to decide what they may or may not allow their users. And how long that blockade lasts.

Proponents say: at last social media intervened heavily against the ‘alternative truths‘ of the Trump government, but its supporters see it as censorship. โ€œFreedom of speech is dead,โ€ said the president’s eldest son, Eric Trump.

De Vreese: โ€œStructurally depriving someone of the opportunity to participate in the public debate is dangerous and you have to think about that. No matter if 75 million people voted for the person, or if he has 75 followers.โ€

‘The power gived’

According to Kulk, the situation shows how much power some tech companies have in their hands. โ€œWe gave them that by communicating massively through these platforms. But you can ask yourself whether these companies can weigh carefully what can or can not be done.โ€

He calls for the tech companies to be more accountable and points out that this is also on the agenda in Brussels.

The European Commission presented two legislative proposals in December to regulate the tech sector. If adopted, companies will be given more duties to harmful contentto delete. On the other hand, however, the placing party must be clearly explained why this has been done and given the opportunity to appeal it.