Will Twitter Ban Trump

Twitter blocks Donald "Tweet" Trump : A short message service becomes an uncanny instrument of power

A web runs around the globe, an invisible one. It spans all continents and consists of millions of networks. These are used to send messages, billions of tweets, posts, chats, memes. They buzz through fiber optic cables and through the airwaves, and they produce real-time communication in virtual spaces.

For Donald Trump these were his study. The outgoing US president shied away from press conferences, and is said to have been inattentive or quick-tempered at cabinet meetings. His favorite way of doing official business was through tweets, and his Twitter storms determined the political weather.

The account “@realDonaldTrump” is said to have around 89 million followers, the account was his megaphone, his microphone, his digital drum. With it he could stir up anger, sow doubts, influence stock markets, spread lies, hatred, conspiracy fantasies, in the morning, at night, while watching TV, while eating.

In July 2017, he tweeted to critics of his practice: "My use of social media is not Presidential - it's MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL."

In 2020 alone, Trump had posted 12,200 tweets by December. Micro-blogging was central to Donald “Tweet” Trump's power arsenal.

First Twitter threatened, then Twitter blocked

When Trump declared his “love” on Wednesday, January 6th, to an unleashed crowd of people who had just stormed the Capitol as a mob, the company Twitter threatened the president. His account will be blocked if he does not delete his current inflammatory speeches.

Perhaps the operators had gripped real fear of possible complicity in the treason, perhaps their conscience had awakened after four years of watching. The unbelievable happened: The short message service pulled the plug and let Donald "Tweet" Trump fall silent. It will have been shocking to the man who would see the loss of his channel worse than that of his office.

He had fueled his followers with words and videos, indirectly called for a storm on the Capitol, to storm, supporting a plan that had been circulating on social networks for weeks and that he must have known about.

Maybe Donald Trump was primarily interested in showing how he can mobilize his private militia from hooligans adhoc with just a few words on social networks, how he can compose his troops, how someone can set the dogs on his opponents with a digital whistle.

Suddenly the wind turned against Trump

But the coup attempt provoked a paradoxical reaction, even Vice President Pence demonstrated democratic greatness, the wind turned against Trump. The biggest blow to him, however, had not been dealt by the renegade followers, but by the CEOs from digital media. Not only did Trump switch off Twitter, but also Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, declared that “the risk of allowing the president to continue using our services during this time” was “simply too great”. Trump's accounts on Facebook and Instagram are now blocked for at least two weeks until Joe Biden is inaugurated.

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Even before his account was blocked, Trump tweeted the opposite of Wednesday, like a student who obediently followed up. He thinks the mob he has just loved is “abhorrent”, he will hand over the office, and his mantra of “electoral fraud” is now completely missing.

The tweeted gesture of repentance ended with the promise that this was "just the beginning"

Whether the fear of being kicked out of the presidential chair shortly before the end of the term of office was greater, or the fear of losing his miniature microphone with maximum effect, that cannot be fathomed. But the tweeted gesture of remorse remained ambivalent and ended with the promise that this was "just the beginning". What? About what? The following can guess what he means.

The remarkable thing about the matter: It was not the Congress, the police or the judiciary who had slowed down a possible escalation by Trump, but digital billionaires, many of them young people who look like skaters in a city park, against which nothing speaks. But it became clearer than ever that they are the rulers of the president's digital instrument of rule. For years they had been told to stop Trump's toxic messages. Well, finally, they made up their minds. The digital corporations allow, they forbid a president to speak. You co-rule. They give the man his platform, his stage, or withdraw it from him.

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This dynamic raises massive questions. What power are the digital corporations endowed with? How is it that they have such a central say, as here, about decency or insurrection, civil war or social peace? What if a Trump fan was at the helm instead of a Zuckerberg? How is such a huge potential for influence legitimized? How is it controlled?

Competition with reputable media

The Capitol Affair reveals to the maximum what digital corporations can do and do as social or anti-social media, how much they have become competitors of the dying serious media, especially in the USA, against the background of eroding education, dwindling local stations and local newspapers.

The scenario now exploded before everyone's eyes: The power of the unregulated, global giant space of digital media. Social media can not only promote revolts like the Arab Spring, but also provide free intellectual fuel for arsonists and become a greenhouse for arsonists.

Traditional actors such as political parties and traditional media are losing trust, while the private newsroom, which anyone can fill with tweets and blogs, washes away the factual. From the beginning - see “alternative facts” - this was a leitmotif of the Trump administration, and this was a symptom of the naive, extremely dangerous letting things go in the digital age.

The lack of democratic control of the digital corporations is irresponsible

The fear of democratic control of the digital corporations seems enormous, also because they monopolize almost all digital interfaces between public administration and the population. This state of affairs may of course only mark a transition period, because it is as irresponsible as it is untenable. In the medium term, the goal of democracies will be the de-cartelization and decentralization of these corporations and their potential arbitrariness. But smashing the unprecedented monopolists will be a highly complex, interdisciplinary challenge.

Often these days a scenario was imagined indignantly, in which instead of the white trash mob black activists would have vandalized the Capitol. The law enforcement officers would have taken brutal action right away, right? Probably yes. But again: What if Twitter and Co. wanted a rebellion for Trump? The web of the Internet would immediately become a highly dangerous, political ghost - even more dangerous than ever. The digital bosses have finally shown common sense, that was redeeming.

But democratic constitutional states cannot tolerate such a high concentration of informal, private power in the long term.

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