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After Permanently Suspending Trump’s Account, Twitter Needs to Establish Clearer Guidance on Rules

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It’s amazing how quickly the tide can shift on social media.

Following the initial restrictions placed on US President Donald Trump’s accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more, in the wake of this week’s Capitol riots, Twitter has now aligned with Facebook in permanently suspending Trump’s account.

At the same time, free-speech aligned platform Parler has been threatened with removal from both The App Store and the Google Play store unless it updates its rules around content moderation, due to its failure to “take stronger action to remove posts which seek to incite ongoing violence in the US”.

In combination, the moves drastically reduce the President’s capacity to share his messaging. As a quick reminder:

  • Trump has more than 32 million followers on Facebook, and more than 88 million on Twitter
  • Trump has tweeted 23 times per day, on average, thus far in 2021, with around half of those comments also posted to his Facebook Page
  • While not directly impacted by the suspension of his personal account, the Trump campaign spent more than $89 million on Facebook ads between April and October last year, underlining the significance of the platform to Trump’s outreach efforts
  • Reports have indicated that Trump joined Parler on Thursday as a means to maintain connection with his followers

Indeed, Trump has repeatedly credited social media for playing a key role in helping him win office back in 2016, and for subsequently providing him with a platform to refute what he sees as false claims made by mainstream media outlets.

That recognition hasn’t stopped Trump from also calling for increased regulation of social platforms, and the removal of their powers to label or hide his messages. But it’s clear that social media has played a critical role in his presidency, and that he has gained significant benefit from having direct, largely unfiltered, connection with his supporters. 

But now that capacity is gone, or at least reduced. Trump did shift to the official @POTUS account instead to issue a response, though those tweets were also quickly removed.

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As noted in these comments, Trump and his team could look to create their own platform, which seems like a significant undertaking (Trump has also noted that he’s looking to develop his own TV network). It’s unclear, however, that negotiating with any of the existing players would improve the situation, given the breadth of the actions announced.

Trump could also look to share messages via staff and connections, so there are still options for Trump to keep in touch. But he did seem to be very partial to a late-night tweetstorm, and to creating media headlines via his short remarks. 

So what does Trump do next in response to these restrictions? 

In many ways, the damage has already been done – Trump was eventually forced to concede that Joe Biden did, in fact, win the election, and commit to an orderly transition of power to the next administration. Trump has also noted that he won’t be attending Biden’s inauguration, so it seems that, overall, Trump’s core push to hold on to the Presidency, has now been lost. Trump has vowed to fight on, but that fight would likely carry over to a 2024 campaign, so Trump does have time to take a break and re-group. And if he waits, maybe his personal accounts will be reinstated, and in three to six months, he looks to build once again, with his mighty social media presence back in full effect.

Trump could lay low and wait things out. But then again, that’s never been his style, and it’ll be interesting to see what action he does take in response for these latest rulings.

But while the discussion right now is around Trump and his personal use of social media, the latest restriction announcements do raise further queries as to the rules the platforms choose to apply, and when they choose to apply them, with respect to public safety.

As per Twitter, on the justification for suspended Trump’s account:

“Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open. However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things.”

Twitter says that Trump was warned about his tweets on the day of the Capitol riots, and asked to delete those which violated its policies. Trump complied, and his account was subsequently reinstated the following day. 

Two days later, Trump tweeted:

“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”

He then followed that up with:

“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

Twitter says that, taken in broader context, given the surrounding division in the US, these two tweets constituted a further violation of its rules, which is what lead to the permanent suspension of his account.

Many Trump critics have praised the move, and applauded Twitter for ‘finally’ canceling Trump entirely. But the justification here seems loose – while Twitter’s saying that these statements could be seen as a further undermining of the election result, and potentially even an incitement to more unrest, it does appear that Twitter has rapidly changed its rules around what it deems acceptable. Which you might think is fine if it works to your benefit, or your particular political leaning. But without clear, definitive guidelines on such, there are significant risks in reactionary approaches to enforcement like this moving forward.

Some have suggested that the social platforms are now emboldened by the political power shift – with the Republicans losing control of The White House and the Senate, there will also be a clear change in approach to social media regulation and enforcement. Right-wing politicians had pushed for the platforms to stop interfering with what people share, allowing them unfettered access to their constituents. But left-wing senators are more likely to call for increased restrictions and limits on what can be shared.

As such, the platforms moving to align with this new dynamic could be a preemptive move to make good with the coming political powers, which could help in coming battles over Section 230, regulation, data privacy, etc. Facebook, for example, is facing a new investigation by the FTC over anti-competitive behavior, and it will likely need all the political leverage it can muster to gain favor.

Maybe, by re-shaping their policies more in-line with the new administration, it can demonstrate a willingness to work with them on changes, as opposed to being forced into unwanted limits or changes.

Some have also suggested that this is PR puffery. Twitter and Facebook could have banned Trump at any time, like when he provoked racial tensions during the #BlackLivesMatter protests, or threatened nuclear war against North Korea via tweet. But now they say he’s gone too far, when he’s in his last days of office, and his electoral defeat has been made official. Much like the Trump staffers announcing their resignations in the last few days – now you can look virtuous, when the end is clearly in sight. But you were able to overlook every other issue along the way, when it was likely to your benefit. 

Does that also apply to Facebook and Twitter, which have clearly benefited from the millions of posts, Likes, comments and shares of Trump-related updates? All of that is engagement, which is what both Facebook and Twitter push for.

Without formal policies to protect against similar in future, developed as a result of the Trump era, it doesn’t yet seem like we’ve turned a corner, or learned a lesson as such. 

Which is the real crux of the issue here. While Twitter and Facebook will bask in the positive breeze of banning Trump, the policies around those actions are not clear. And they need to be. If the rules have changed, and the platforms are taking a tougher stance against provoking civil unrest, that should be spelled out, so we don’t allow this to escalate so far in future. If there are going to be more specific regulations around the growth of divisive groups, like QAnon, that should be formally established in the wake of this incident. 

That’s what we really need right now, not just account removals and suspensions, but an acknowledgment that, yes, we allowed this to go on for too long, which almost lead to the downfall of democracy in the US. 

How can we stop it? What are the rules that need to be established to avoid the same occurring again in future?

The way forward is not clear, but definitive clarity is what’s required.

   

  

Socialmediatoday.com

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Does ‘goblin mode’ sum up 2022 for you?

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Does 'goblin mode' sum up 2022 for you?

Sleep is associated with a state of muscle relaxation and reduced perception of environmental stimuli. — Image: Rachel CALAMUSA (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When you think back across 2022, which word or phrase captures the zeitgeist? Each year the Oxford English Dictionary selects its word of the year and this year the selected ‘word’ (or rather phrase) is “goblin mode.”

The Oxford Word of the Year is intended to represent “a word or expression reflecting the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past twelve months, one that has potential as a term of lasting cultural significance.”

As to what “goblin mode” means, Oxford defines this as “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.”

As far as lexicographers can assess, the word has been in use since 2009 when it first entered the digital lexicon on Twitter.

Apparently, the phrase gained traction from February 2022, possibly as a reaction to a return to so-termed “normalcy” after COVID-19 restrictions began to be lifted in many countries.

In terms of context, the London Evening Standard develops an example of “goblin mode” as: “Sinking into your sofa under a blanket stained with tomato from takeaway pizza – the crusts of which are long cold in the box on the floor but you’ll probably eat them later. Gormlessly watching Too Hot To Handle with no sense of irony. Making no plans to do anything as productive as, say, brushing your teeth or leaving the house.”

Whereas The Guardian uses: “Goblin mode is like when you wake up at 2am and shuffle into the kitchen wearing nothing but a long t-shirt to make a weird snack, like melted cheese on saltines”.

This puts “goblin mode” firmly in the slacker arena.

To be considered, a word or phrase must be supported by evidence of real language usage. This is based on context, frequency statistics and other language data.

This year represented the first year when the selection process for ‘Word of the Year’ was opened up to English speakers for the first time in its history. Across a period of two weeks more than 300,000 people cast their vote against a pre-made list.

With the 2022 vote, “goblin mode” got 93 percent of the more than 300,000 votes. “Metaverse” finished second. In third place was “#IStandWith” (to represent mass social media reactions to a perceived injustice, such as “#IStandWithUkraine”).

Time will tell whether “goblin mode” or “metaverse” has the most capital.

Previous words of the year have included vax (2021) and climate emergency (2019). The last ten years have given us:

2013    selfie   

2014    vap     

2015    😂 (Face With Tears of Joy, Unicode: U+1F602, part of emoji)     

2016    post-truth

2017    youthquake    

2018    toxic

2019    climate emergency

2020    No single word chosen (due to this being the year of COVID-19 turmoil).

2021    vax

2022    goblin mode

A week ago another dictionary -Merriam-Webster  – announced its word of the year this year as “gaslighting”. While the word is old, possibly dating back a hundred years, its use has spiked across 2022. “Gaslighting” refers to the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for one’s own advantage.

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