How else could he argue it was wrong to prevent the President from tweeting implications the US election was rigged?
I had been following the tweets and Parleys closely, and it was frightening.
Trump supporters storm the Capitol in Washington. CREDIT:AP
Trump’s tweet saying he would not attend Biden’s inauguration was interpreted by his followers as encouragement for further violent action.
Within seconds there were plans for lynching of specific politicians and journalists, and schemes for firearms to be taken to Washington later this week. The FBI has now confirmed that violence is still being planned.
Twitter’s decision was therefore a response to a continuing civic emergency. I find it hard to see how any responsible player could have behaved differently.
Would McCormack advocate for Twitter to allow the planning of other kinds of terrorism – such as Islamic terrorism? Surely not.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN
But to defend Twitter’s decision on this occasion is not to say social media companies are blameless.
We should be urgently concerned about their immense power to both amplify and restrict speech. And we should have been tackling these issues years ago.
In the Philippines, to give just one example, hundreds of inauthentic accounts on Facebook, linked to the murderous regime of President Rodrigo Duterte, have for years been used to spread disinformation and threats of violence.
Facebook began to act against this during the 2019 mid-term elections, but as eminent journalist Maria Ressa has put it, the misinformation, like a drug injected into a vein, was already coursing through the political system. Facebook’s action was too little, too late.
Now it is happening again – but this time in the US – hence gaining world attention.
It is abundantly clear that the digital platforms must drop the pretence that they are not a kind of publisher/broadcaster, and therefore partly responsible for what is carried on their platforms.
If they cannot self-regulate, then they must be regulated, and co-operate with that effort.
Every new media technology has disrupted power and created issues of how we regulate speech. The printing press was part of the religious reformation. The Pope was not a fan when the Bible was translated and published for anyone to read.
For most of the time since, freedom of the press has belonged to those who have a printing press – or a broadcasting licence.
The key innovation of our own times is that for the first time in human history, anyone with an internet connection can publish to the world within minutes of deciding to do so.
This has already changed just about everything in politics and society.
It is at least the historical equivalent of the printing press. There is lots to celebrate, including the ability of people previously excluded from public life to make themselves heard.
But so far, we have not come up with a way of thinking through the issues and implications.
The digital platforms have rejected the idea that they more than technology companies.CREDIT:GETTY IMAGES
The digital platforms have rejected the idea that they more than technology companies, and should therefore take on some of the responsibilities that go with freedom to publish.
This denial of responsibility is no longer tenable.
Through the algorithms that govern our feeds, social media companies curate information and decide what we see. They amplify some players and mute others. But how they do so is neither consistent nor transparent.