By Nandita Bose and David Shepardson
WASHINGTON – Technology companies’ decision to curtail President Donald Trump’s ability to speak to supporters via mainstream social media could force him to use more traditional communication methods or more isolated conservative online channels in his final days in office , Experts say.
Twitter Inc, Facebook Inc, Google, Apple Inc, and Amazon.com Inc, which are part of Alphabet Inc, have taken their strongest measures yet against Trump to limit his reach. They feared continued violence over his posts after his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol last week. They were joined by smaller tech companies like Twitch, Snapchat, Reddit, Shopify, and TikTok.
Trump, who without evidence questioned the validity of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s November 3 victory, praised and berated supporters before besieging the Capitol on Wednesday, where lawmakers upheld the election of the electoral college for Biden. Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died in the attack.
Apple, Google and Amazon have suspended Parler – a pro-Trump app that users threatened to use more violence on – from their respective app stores and web hosting services. These measures can seriously affect the service.
The platform has 12 million users and Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric are active, but now a new web host must be found to replace Amazon in order to stay in business at all.
HOW CAN TRUMP ACHIEVE HIS FOLLOWERS?
In the wake of the Twitter ban – a platform the president has been obsessed with since he first ran for office and on which he spoke regularly to his 88 million followers – Trump vowed he would “not be silenced!” ” and promised a “big announcement soon”.
Trump also tweeted on @POTUS ‘Twitter account shortly after the ban, railing against the tech company, the Democrats and a law to protect internet companies called Section 230. He is considering building his own social media platform. His tweets were deleted by the company almost immediately.
But it will take time to become self-employed. At the moment, Trump, who is stepping down from office on January 20, has alternatives such as the conservative online platform Gab, a free speech network without censorship rules that has far less reach.
Helpers and supporters are already turning to Gab and the MeWe platform to reinforce their messages in the coming days, experts said. Other likely outlets include Rumble video platform and video streaming service DLive, as well as alternative news sites like American Media Periscope, said Monica Stephens, an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo whose research focuses on topics like social media.
“I don’t think Trump will join these smaller platforms himself. He is more likely to create something himself than to join something that is under someone else’s control,” she said.
In the meantime, he can tap Trump-friendly networks like Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax to get his message across. The other underutilized option is the White House press office, experts said. He can continue to hold briefings or distribute statements and videos until the end of his term.
WHAT DO HIS FOLLOWERS AND SUPPORTERS SAY?
Immediately after the Twitter ban, supporters like Angela Stanton-King, a Republican supporter of the QAnon conspiracy group that represented Georgia’s 5th Congressional District in November, and Republican representative Thomas Massie started sharing their Parler accounts on Twitter and the followers to encourage relocation there.
Others like conservative media presenter Rush Limbaugh have disabled their Twitter accounts.
Numerous Republican lawmakers denounced the decisions made by social media companies as an attempt to suppress conservative voices, arguing that the measures would polarize the country further.
“We now live in a country where four or five companies – not elected, not accountable – have the power to decide a monopoly power, we’re going to wipe people out, we’re just going to wipe them out of every species.” digital platform, “Senator Marco Rubio said on Fox News.
Some liberal freedom of expression activists were also unhappy with the measures. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, defended the right of Twitter and others to “curate their platforms,” but called for greater transparency and consistency in decision-making.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it should “affect everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the uncontrolled power to remove people from platforms that have become essential to the talk of billions.”
CAN ONLINE PLATFORMS TRUMPLE AND ITS FOLLOWERS?
Silicon Valley companies have tried often, often without much success, to sell malicious content – from disinformation to elections to hate speech and violent threats – but their actions over the past few days have been the toughest.
The first change that guarantees freedom of speech does not generally apply to private sector companies that allow them to moderate speeches that lead to violence on their platforms.
“I think for the past four years or more there has been a legitimate interest in maintaining the president and his voice on Twitter and other platforms. But what he’s done has clearly exceeded any reasonable interest in public order,” said Chris Cancer. former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.