As if we did not have enough drama in our lives, suddenly we have the Trump-Twitter soap opera. And it doesn’t seem to make sense from any angle. Trump has made Twitter the go-to place for politicians, ‘round the world, to put out their messages. And, of course, politicians of any stripe are in business to push a narrative—a one-sided defense or attack—that is, “half-truths.”
World leaders use Twitter as an official mouthpiece. Donald Trump, United States, has 77 million followers; Narendra Modi, India, has 55 million followers; Pope Francis, Vatican has 50 million. Trump has three separate Twitter accounts. Those are current leaders. The list of top five largest number of followers includes Barack Obama, 117.7 million; Justin Bieber, 111.7; Katy Perry, 108.5; Rihanna, 96.8; Taylor Swift, 86.1.
People should know that users are pushing their own propaganda, and judge what a politician tweets in that light (or darkness). Do we really need the platform to warn us about what we already (should) know? What a politician says will be championed and defended by his/her supporters and attacked by his/her detractors. So the only people who may need a warning are independents (who are fewer and fewer these days).
So the first thing that makes no sense is Twitter picking a fight with the user most famous for using the platform. Why would they do that?
The second thing that makes no sense is the tweet they chose to pick at. Donald Trump has said a lot of questionable things on Twitter. But the tweet that started this fight is not a personal attack. It’s not name-calling. It’s probably not even, in this case, a lie. A lie, by definition, is an intentional telling of a falsehood. You have to know it’s false. If you’re talking about the future, isn’t it just a guess at what may happen?
In case you’ve, somehow missed this fight, Politico explains.
The social network, which has long had policies in place that prohibit “manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes,” said two Trump tweets from earlier Tuesday that baselessly claimed mail-in ballots are likely to be “substantially fraudulent” contained misleading information about the voting process. And so, Twitter spokesperson Katie Rosborough said in an email, the posts by Trump “have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots” — a first for the social network.
The actual tweet is as follows:
There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone…..
Trump’s error is in saying “will be.” If he had said these things “could” or “might” happen, he’d be ok. And while “NO WAY (ZERO!)” is obviously false, it could still be seen as opinion, not a lie. But here’s another thing that doesn’t make sense: why is he picking on California?? Trump has about as much chance of winning California as he has of winning Massachusetts—a state that voted for McGovern, Mondale, and Dukakis.
Another thing that doesn’t make sense is Trump’s response. He feels stifled, so he wants to get off it—or more ominously, shut it down altogether? The issue is “free speech,” but that refers to government action. By the Constitution, the government cannot stifle free speech, but that does not extend to private enterprise. Also, Twitter didn’t stifle or censor Trump. They just offered a link to an opposing opinion.
Years ago, we had a “fairness doctrine.” If a station had aired three hours of Rush Limbaugh, for example, they would have been required to offer three hours of rebuttal. The logic was that the airways were public property, and if a station wanted to promote its own political view, it had to offer the other side airtime to give the other side. It was common practice to have a station editorial, and then have that editorial rebutted on their own station. That’s no longer required. Media can offer as much Bill Maher or Rush Limbaugh that they want. No balance required.
To make things more complicated, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, went on Fox to debate the issue.
[Zuckerberg said] “You know, I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” he continued. “I think, in general, private companies probably shouldn’t be — or especially these platform companies — shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”. . .
“This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth,’” Dorsey added. “Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions.”
Zuckerberg wasn’t taking Trump’s side. Trump’s executive order would hurt Facebook as much as Twitter. It’s likely an effort to stave off regulation (which Trump says he’s against). More importantly, Zuckerberg doesn’t want to have to be responsible for policing irresponsible and dangerous speech. There’s so much misinformation and disinformation on social platforms that there’s no way to catch all of it.
ZD Net takes a lighthearted view and says this whole melodrama is not serious.
Theirs isn’t a principled standoff. It’s a lovers tiff. Trump fears that Twitter is cheating on him. And the president so abhors cheating.
By placing a link to a fact-checking site on the subject of mail-in ballots, Twitter is trying to tell the president. . .[his] passionate cries — can now be heard by the neighbors. . . It’s upsetting the, um, community. That’s just not good for the image of a social medium that’s always been characterized by harmonious compassion among humans.
For his part, Trump fears Twitter doesn’t love him anymore. And that hurts. You see, Twitter has given him what no lover ever has. It’s always available and so, so easy. It’s perfect for his manly, energetic brand of one-appmanship. All you need is love. All Trump needs is Twitter. . .
More likely, Twitter and Trump, the Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal of our times, will soon embrace each other one more time. They know that if they quit each other, they’d both lose everything that they are.
The Trump-Twitter tiff makes no sense for either of them. Where will they go from here?