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Is Trump's Twitter account too big to fail?
In the last 24 hours, Trump has been suspended from Facebook, Snapchat, Twitch and Instagram. Mark Zuckerberg stated that his accounts would be blocked “indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.” Trump was also locked out of his Twitter account for 12 hours, with the company saying, “Future violations of the Twitter Rules, including our Civic Integrity or Violent Threats policies, will result in permanent suspension”.
Of all his social media accounts, Trump’s Twitter account is by far the most important. More than any other politician, he has used the platform to make announcements, communicate with the public, and launch attacks on his opponents. He is the 6th most-followed Twitter account in the world, with over 88 million followers. Trump has been described in Politico as “America’s first Twitter president.”
Since the storming of the Capitol building, there have been calls for Trump to be banned from Twitter permanently. But it’s possible that his account is “too big to fail”. What do I mean by this?
Trump remains deeply popular among Republicans, an astonishing 45% of whom told YouGov they approved of what happened on Wednesday. If he were banned from Twitter, it’s very likely that he would make an account on Parler – the rival social media platform that is currently dominated by US conservatives. Several of Trump’s children have made Parler accounts, including his son Eric – who boasts 1.9 million followers.
Given that conservatives are already indignant about censorship on Twitter, slapping Trump with a permanent ban could precipitate a mass exodus of users to Parler – enough, perhaps, to make Jack Dorsey nervous. Note that Dorsey would have not one but two reasons to be concerned.
First, his company’s main rival would see a significant boost in usership, and hence investment. Second, his ideological opposition (one has to assume he’s a Democrat) would be less easy to “control” – through forced deletion of tweets, suspensions, restrictions on links etc. Since almost everyone uses Twitter as their main social media platform, large accounts on Parler don’t have much influence at the moment. But if “conservative Parler” were as big as “conservative Twitter” is now, those large accounts might rise in influence substantially.
Putting all this together, Twitter may allow Trump to stick around, albeit with a lot of warning labels attached to his tweets.
Image: V. Zveg, Second Battle of the Virginia Capes
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