By Chand Bellur
June 3, 2020 at 7:46 p.m. PT
- As the 2020 election draws near, President Donald J. Trump increases incendiary and divisive social media posts.
- Twitter decided to gently moderate Trump, while Facebook, after a phone call with the President, agreed to let him have free rein.
- Snapchat joins Twitter in taking ineffectual actions against President Trump’s messages, which sometimes incite violence and violate most social media platform rules.
Media Obsessed with Trump
Donald Trump’s media mastery is a force to be reckoned with. Former executive producer of The Apprentice, Jeff Zucker, now CNN’s chief executive officer, can’t get enough of Trump. While seemingly opposed to the President, the network gives him more free media coverage than any other outlet. Even FOX News provides less publicity for the Republican President.
Jeff Zucker and Donald Trump have a long-standing relationship. The former made the latter very wealthy, while also enriching his own wealth. This relationship isn’t just about friendship covered up with a thin veil of “professional wrestling” styled pseudo-animosity. CNN relies on Trump for viewers and revenues.
This business model doesn’t end with cable news. All of the media is obsessed with Trump because he’s a lucrative commodity. To this extent, social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and others let him have free rein.
Social media has two sets of rules. If you’re part of the masses, your messages and account can vanish just for offending someone. Celebrities, however, earn significant revenues for social media companies. They can insult, mislead, and even incite violence and get away with it.
Snapchat Removes Trump from Discover Screen
Snapchat has now joined Twitter in taking modest actions against Donald Trump. This isn’t about right, wrong, or the truth. It’s about revenues and public relations. Their recent move doesn’t censor Trump. Instead, it promotes Snapchat.
Today, Snapchat will no longer promote Trump’s account on the Discover screen. Users can still follow him and read his posts.
Given that everyone in the world knows who Donald Trump is, the action is more symbolic than effective. Not promoting Trump gives Snapchat a progressive sheen, but they still feed Trump’s base wild misinformation and inflammatory content. Anyone else would be banned.
Social Media Under Attack
Social media has become a mess of misinformation, lies, and rogue actors. Beyond politics, social media users face scams, fake users, and a wide array of intrusions. Now that social media can sway elections, lawmakers are getting involved.
Twitter’s soft swipe at Trump resulted in an executive order to remove protections from social media and the broader technology industry. Bipartisan support for revising or eliminating section 230 of the Communication Decency Act has been growing for some time.
Section 230 of the CDA absolves corporations of responsibility for user content. It also allows them to moderate users as they see fit, without legal repercussions.
Democrats argue that the clause allows social media companies to distribute misinformation, which can sway elections. Republicans feel that social media companies censor right-wing voices.
Snapchat’s move may put section 230 in jeopardy. Although Trump’s executive order likely won’t have much impact, bipartisan support for reform is growing. Their modest action didn’t appeal to the left or right, putting section 230 at risk.