After Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, Donald Trump has also been banned from his YouTube account this week. It is unprecedented that a world leader on all those social media platforms can no longer share a message.
Twitter is the only one to permanently delete the profile of the US president. Other heads of state have had messages deleted or had their account temporarily suspended, but Trump is the first to of these rules may not return, the company confirms. The rest of the platforms are currently subject to a temporary ban on posting messages.
Regardless of whether the boycott is justified, it raises questions about how much influence these companies may have on public debate and freedom of expression.
For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Trump’s blockade “problematic” this week. Only the judiciary and legislature should be able to make such a decision, “and not the management of a social media platform”.
NOS op 3 explains what Donald Trump, and we too, notice about a 25-year-old law:
At the push of a button, the president lost instant access to 88 million followers on Twitter. 35 million followers on Facebook, 24 million on Instagram and 2.7 million on YouTube will not receive any new messages from Trump. It is a decision that was unthinkable years ago, explains professor of political communication Claes de Vreese (UVA).
“For a long time these companies have said: we are not about the content. But the fact that they are now switching to temporarily or permanently suspending accounts is very striking.”
Stefan Kulk, associate professor of technology and law (UU) describes it as a new chapter. “A few private companies in the United States are increasingly becoming the arbiter of what you can or cannot say online.”
‘Calls to Violence’
The tech companies, incidentally, contradict this in a response to the NOS. For example, Facebook says that “it is not for private companies to make decisions about fundamental, democratic values. But it is important to emphasize that we do remove content from politicians that could cause harm, discourage voters from voting, or where there is. of hate speech. “
According to Facebook (also owner of Instagram) Trump has repeatedly violated that limit in the period surrounding the storming of the Capitol in Washington DC. Twitter refers to this reasoning why Trump was removed. Based on two tweets from January 8, the company ruled that it “probably inspires others” to violence, such as during the occupation of the Capitol.
In this video you can see how the peaceful pro-Trump protest ended in the storming of the US parliament:
Google (owner of YouTube) also says in a response that Trump has instigated violence. It will be the same three strikes-system used as for all users. That means he cannot upload anything for a week. At a second strike that would be for a period of two weeks. At three strikes in 90 days the account will be deleted.
Following the violent storming of the Capitol, prominent Democrats immediately called for the president’s banishment on social media. As well as 300 employees of Twitter itself. The Democrats and some Republican politicians believe Trump has incited the violent occupation of the parliament building. Impeachment proceedings are pending against the president.
Trump can hardly challenge the blockages on social media. Ultimately, it concerns commercial platforms that are allowed to decide for themselves what they allow or not allow from their users. And how long that blockade lasts.
You may wonder whether those companies can carefully weigh up what is or is not acceptable.
Proponents say social media has finally taken a big crack at the Trump administration’s ‘alternative truths’, but its supporters see it as censorship. “Freedom of speech is dead,” said the president’s eldest son, Eric Trump.
De Vreese: “Structurally denying someone the opportunity to participate in the public debate is dangerous and you have to think about it carefully. Regardless of whether 75 million people voted for the person or whether he has 75 followers.”
‘Given the power’
According to Kulk, the situation shows how much power some tech companies have in their hands. “We gave them this by communicating en masse via these platforms. But you may wonder whether those companies can carefully weigh up what is or is not acceptable.”
He argues that tech companies should be more accountable and points out that this is also on the agenda in Brussels.
The European Commission introduced two legislative proposals in December to regulate the tech sector. If these are passed, companies will have more obligations to remove harmful content. On the other hand, the placing party must be clearly explained why this has been done and be given the opportunity to appeal against it.