Social Media reacts to the events in Washington
Throughout his presidency Donald Trump has used social media as a means of communicating with Americans and indeed the rest of the world. Sometimes the content of these posts/tweets have been criticised by journalists and laypeople alike for being misleading and spreading what has come to be termed misinformation. However, most social media platforms have been reluctant to take down or moderate Trump’s posts. For some people, the fact that the President of the United States says something means that it must be true, and they will look no further for evidence to support or deny what a world leader is saying.
Social media respond to violent scenes that are widely disseminated
However, the stance of at least four of the social media networks seems to have changed following the events of Wednesday 6th January 2021 when Trump supporters stormed The Capitol building in Washington. Videos and photographs of the violent scene quickly went viral shocking a disbelieving world. Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitch suspended Trump’s accounts indefinitely whilst Twitter has locked his account temporarily.
The Guardian in an article by Kari Paul (San Francisco) on 8th January 2021 quotes several experts as saying that after four years of propaganda and the end of Trump’s presidency in sight, the ban has come too late. The article quotes Jennifer M Grygiel, an assistant professor of communication at Syracuse University and an expert on social media states, “Trump’s leverage of social media to spread propaganda has largely gone unchecked amid a vacuum of laws regulating government speech on social media” One wonders if a new administration might remedy this. Grygiel would seem to support this as the Guardian quotes her as saying” We need legislation that ensures no future president can ever propagandize the American people in this way again”.
Misinformation and violence were already rampant issues
According to “The Guardian” other experts have long warned about the rise of misinformation and violent right-wing rhetoric on social media sites and Trump’s role in fuelling it. Brian Friedberg a senior researcher at the Harvard Shorenstein Center’s Technology and Social Change Project saying that what happened at The Capitol building was in line with expectations given the way ‘different factions responsible for what happened have been operating online, and how platforms’ previous attempts to deal with them have fallen short”.