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Argument: Taking Trump Down Has Exposed Social Media’s Inherent Contradictions Taking Trump Down Has Exposed Social Media...
Recent events have forced leading American tech firms into a precarious choice: side with the outgoing president whose self-serving, divisive, and false messages fueled a riot, or with the incoming one who has emphasized his desire to bring the country back together?
In the weeks preceding the alarming events of Jan. 6, when supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, the president persistently and falsely suggested that the November 2020 presidential election had been rigged and stolen from him by Democratic opponent Joe Biden. But Trump had a ready-made audience for falsehood: nearly 90 million followers on Twitter, as well as other forms of social media engagement including videos relating to the Capitol riot uploaded online.
As such, there has been tremendous pressure on leading internet companies to take a strong stand against Trump, who favored the internet above all other forms of communication. Stated in those terms, it feels obvious that companies should take down Trump’s content—which many have equated to “siding” with Biden and the liberal faction. This appears to be the only option that simultaneously protects the safety, security, and democratic interests of the public.
But there have still been stark differences among the firms. Facebook is still holding off from a permanent ban, most noticeably. While Twitter and others have thrown him off their platforms for good, Facebook has only suspended him “indefinitely”—a position that Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg took plenty of flak for. These differences—and the last-minute nature of the action—suggest the decision wasn’t an easy one.
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