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The good news: Since Twitter took the lead in banning Trump from social media platforms in the wake of the deadly January 6, insurrection, online misinformation about election fraud plunged 73 percent.
The bad news: The damage done by Twitter's refusal for years to ban Trump is almost impossible to calculate.
Would National Guard troops now be stationed inside the U.S. Capitol if Twitter had banned Trump in 2018, for instance? I doubt it. Would that same building have been breached by armed invaders for the first time since 1814? Would Washington, D.C. today be on military lockdown, brimming with 30,000 armed Guardsmen and U.S. Marshalls on the eve of Joe Biden's election, for fear of more radical, right-wing violence?
Instead of taking clear action against the Trump menace when he violated the company's user terms of service by posting slanderous attacks, an avalanche of lies, and even demanding the arrest of Democratic Party leaders, Twitter cowered as conservatives falsely accused the company of trying to "silence conservatives." In the process, Twitter helped Trump fuel the insurrectionist movement.
During Trump's term, the far right used Congressional hearings, presidential tweets, relentless messaging from Fox News, and hardball legal action to intimidate. Right-wing activists complained so loudly and so ferociously about phantom fouls of "liberal bias" that social media companies like Twitter thought twice about even appearing to offend Republicans.
Additionally, like so many of the social media's counterparts in the mainstream media, Twitter seemed addicted to the attention and traffic Trump brought them, and worked diligently not to police him, but to figure out ways to carve out a special niche that allowed Trump to follow no discernible rules.
Trump clearly used Twitter to sow the seeds of armed revolution. "This warning of a looming civil war takes on a different meaning when it appears on the President's Twitter feed -- not only because of the office he holds, but because he regularly packages his over-the-top doomsaying with specific calls for political violence," Columbia University professor Nicole Hemmer warned more than a year ago.
Twitter isn't the only culprit here. I've written extensively about America's Mark Zuckerberg problem, as Facebook continues to spread deliberate misinformation on a global scale, while the company caters to right-wing politicians. But tweets were Trump's rhetorical weapon of choice in his war on truth, decency, and democracy. It was the tweets that ricocheted around the world, paralyzed the GOP with fear, and sent journalists scurrying to treat every social media post as BREAKING NEWS.
"When Trump is using his tweets to make threats, incite violence and intimidate witnesses, this is insufficient," then-Democratic candidate Kamala Harris wrote to the company last winter, in response to the company's non-response regarding Trump. "Others have had their accounts suspended for less offensive behavior."
Instead of acting, the social media giant for years twisted itself into a corporate pretzel in order to make sure Trump was able to keep his high-profile spot on the platform, while he violated Twitter guidelines on a daily, and even hourly basis. Forget about the calls of “censorship.” Private companies are within their rights to deny service to customers who chronically fail to follow the rules of conduct. (Twitter forbids all other users from "targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category.")
The clear and present danger Trump presented became glaringly obvious following his election loss when he used Twitter to launch a vicious, sustained attack against free and fair elections in this country. Climbing onto his authoritarian throne, Trump thundered about the "stolen" election, and spent months spreading the Big Lie about how his landslide victory was taken from him by "corrupt" Democrats, and even some disloyal Republicans.
"I hope Democrats, and even more importantly, the weak and ineffective RINO section of the Republican Party, are looking at the thousands of people pouring into D.C.," Trump tweeted on the eve of the murderous January riot. "They won't stand for a landslide election to be stolen."
Still hiding behind a faux-libertarian ethos of "free speech," Twitter did nothing as the specter of political violence grew. Foolishly positioning itself as a personal outlet for Trump and arguing that because he was President of the United States, Twitter was in no position to police him, the company refused to act in the nation's best interest.
Only after Trump returned to Twitter following the January 6 mob attack and again seemed to incite his followers, did Twitter finally ban him permanently.
Can you imagine the state of the nation if Trump had been allowed to use Twitter over the last 10 days and whipped his followers into an anti-inauguration frenzy, demanding they once again descend on the nation's capital to do battle in the streets to stop Biden's swearing in? The threat posed by Trump's radical followers isn't going away. But we can say the national temperature has dropped since the mob attack. Following Trump’s ban from social media platforms, there have been no bouts of political violence or mass gatherings.
Since Twitter banned Trump, with Facebook, Snapchat and others quickly following, there's been a welcome decline in lies and political misinformation found online. Not only was there a 73 percent drop in election fraud misinformation online, but the amount of discussion around the topic plummeted following Trump's forced exit. "Mentions of the hashtag #FightforTrump, which was widely deployed across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media services in the week before the rally, dropped 95 percent," the Washington Post reported. "#HoldTheLine and the term ‘March for Trump’ also fell more than 95 percent."
Our long national Trump Twitter nightmare is over — several years too late.
💻 GOOD STUFF:
Hopefully Twitter is now feeling more confident in terms of confronting and suspending high-profile Republicans who abuse the rules.
Greene, who has a track record of incendiary rhetoric and ties to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, had tweeted a conspiracy-laden thread earlier Sunday about the Georgia Senate elections. Some of the tweets earned labels from Twitter noting: "This claim about election fraud is disputed, and this Tweet can't be replied to, Retweeted, or liked due to a risk of violence."
🎙FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Harry Styles, “Treat People With Kindness”
I’m determined to be an optimist during these disconcerting times. And I’m especially determined to be one this week as we officially bring down the curtain on the Trump White House era.
With that in mind, I’m loving the latest, hand-clapping single from British pop star Harry Styles, and its addictive Golden Rule chorus, suitable for a new era.
Bonus: The campy, feel-good video features “Fleabag” star Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Maybe we can
Find a place to feel good
And we can treat people with kindness
Find a place to feel good