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Why Twitter was right to silence Trump

Twitter

Claiming the US election was ‘stolen’ from him, Donald Trump, via his Twitter account, subsequently encouraged thousands of his supporters to gather in Washington DC on January 6 and cause general chaos. But Twitter has had enough.

When Biden fairly and squarely won the US election, Donald threw all his toys out his pram, straight onto Twitter, claiming the election was ‘stolen’ from him, inciting what was essentially a riot (depending on the colour of your skin apparently) upon Washington DC earlier this month.

But Trump just kept pushing. On January 8 he Tweeted, “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”

Shortly thereafter, Trump posted, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

As a result, ex-President Trump had his account @realDonaldTrump permanently suspended. In a statement from Twitter, the social media giant said:

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

“We made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things. We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement.”

“We assessed the two Tweets referenced under our Glorification of Violence policy, which aims to prevent the glorification of violence that could inspire others to replicate violent acts and determined that they were highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.”

And I am SO pleased the likes of Trump cannot be continually allowed to spew their bile all over the internet and that Twitter took a stand to protect the people and general order.

According to US Lord Puttnam, former Chair of the House of Lords Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee, the result of the events that transpired on January 6 demonstrate the need for a robust Online Harms Bill.

Lord Puttnam stated, “The shocking events in Washington are a real-world example of how online rhetoric can provoke dangerous real-world actions. While I welcome moves from Twitter and Facebook to limit sharing of President Trump’s misleading comments on the recent US elections, it is too little too late.

Disinformation about elections is still spreading across these platforms and has been for some time. It shouldn’t be left entirely to social media companies to set the parameters of their own rules.

“Governments everywhere need to fully understand the capacity of the online giants to amplify disinformation that poses an unambiguous threat to democratic institutions.

“The UK Government’s recent Online Harms White Paper failed to take up our Select Committee’s recommendation that ‘online platforms’ duty of care must extend to actions which undermine democracy. This means that the duty of care extends to preventing generic harm to our democracy, as well as against specific harm to an individual.”

“It is important the Government corrects that oversight before bringing forward the Online Harms Bill that Ofcom will hold online platforms accountable and impose meaningful fines for disinformation in content that they recommend to large audiences.”

And I couldn’t agree more. There certainly needs to be more government involvement to prevent and deter any more blatantly dangerous online rhetoric, by imposing (as Lord Puttnam stated) companies to be held accountable, and meaningful fines.

Meaningful fines as in, not the $5bn Facebook was fined for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Considering the company was making around $70bn a year back in 2018, do we really thing that fine was “meaningful” because I certainly don’t. I mean they only illegally harvested data from 87 million people’s Facebook profiles without permission to help swing an election. No biggie.

This editorial originally appeared in the Data Centre Review Newsletter January 22, 2021. To ensure you receive these editorials direct to your inbox, subscribe to the newsletter now.

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