Twitter permanently suspended @realDonaldTrump today. After years of spreading misinformation and sowing hate, the two mostly-lame-looking tweets were the straw that broke the bird’s back. Twitter makes a longer case, including a warning about potential unrest before the inauguration.
Facebook took a tepid approach of banning him at least until the term is over.
While many on the left (including myself) seem to welcome these, let’s get one thing clear: all of this is theatre. Twitter and Facebook have had numerous opportunities to ban Trump; why now? It is not cynical to suspect that Democrats’ control of Senate, White House, and Congress (first time since 2011) has emboldened organizations to act in the direction of power and knowing Republicans will not be summoning them for doing so, and not acting will have future consequences from the Democrats. Discord, Snapchat, Twitch, Reddit, and even Shopify took similar actions on DJT and DJT affiliated networks. It’s almost as if all tech companies coordinated to act in unison on Jan 8th.
But just to be clear, this is not the same as suppression of free speech (as in the Chinese firewall way). Limiting the reach of someone on a private platform (Twitter/FB owns it, not the users or the government) is not the same as a complete suppression of somebody’s speech or ideas. Mike Masnick over at Techdirt explained well:
President Trump is not being censored. He is not being limited. At any moment of any day (certainly for the next two weeks, and likely beyond) he can walk out of his office and have every major TV news channel (and every internet streaming platform) broadcast whatever he wants to say, and people will see it
Not to be left behind, Apple and Google de-platformed an entire platform, Parler, today. For better or worse, a lot of right-wing folks seem to have gravitated there. I don’t know, but it feels awful if the community that gives you meaning, however twisted, is taken away from you.
This is not a moment to celebrate. We have a whole segment of the population who will feel unheard, whether real or not, for the next four years regardless of what we say or do. January 6th and January 8th might go down as pivotal moments in our history. The unheard here are not powerless. In fact, some of them are the richest people in the country. These bans are a catalyst for something we have yet to see and wish not. Newer communities will mushroom. They will be opaque and hard to infiltrate. They will be used to organize, plan, and act. The future of misinformation will be complex and distributed (I will write more about that in a follow-up post).
If I were you, I would be hoarding up on BTC right now — as much you can afford it. America’s Tahrir Square moment is ticking. Maybe not in the next month or in the next four years, but soon.