Go home. We love you guys. You are very special.” With these words, US President Trump addresses the mob in the Capitol in a video message on January 6. Around an hour later, the video is deleted from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. This is followed by a blocking of Donald Trump’s Twitter account: twelve hours. Of his Facebook and Instagram accounts: 24 hours.
A resolute action by the social media giants, who have largely given US President Donald Trump free rein in recent years. Facebook goes even further: the blocking of President Trump is to continue indefinitely, as the risk during the transfer of power is too high, according to a statement from CEO Mark Zuckerberg. On Twitter, Donald Trump gets his megaphone back for a short time, further incites the mob and announces he will not attend the inauguration of his successor, Joe Biden. It’s his last tweet. More than 56,000 tweets full of dangerous lies, racist incitement, insults and attacks come to an end for the time being.
Donald Trump and tech companies: After blocking on Facebook and Twitter, others followed suit
After Facebook and Twitter, smaller platforms followed suit: Tiktok, Twitch, Discord, Snapchat, Reddit and many more block the accounts of Donald Trump and his followers. This collective blocking of a person is called deplatforming – literally taking away a person’s platform – and is the last resort to crack down on repeated violations of platform policies.
Deplatforming became widely known when extreme right-wing U.S. radio host and conspiracy narrator Alex Jones and his channel “InfoWars” were simultaneously blocked by Youtube, Spotify, Apple and Facebook. In Jones’ case, the method was deemed at least a partial success, as Jones actually lost a lot of audience. While there are concerns that such moves only strengthen the influence of extreme right-wing figures on their followers, initial research by the organization Data & Society, for example, suggests that deplatforming has so far achieved the desired effect: less attention. However, there are no studies on its long-term effectiveness, and the method remains controversial.
Twitter and Facebook are primarily losing profitable “traffic” as a result of the blocking. The corporate crackdown has led to a veritable exodus of the extreme right to less regulated networks within a few days.
Parler wanted to outrank Twitter and Facebook after Donald Trump’s blockade
Briefly, it looked as if the app Parler would seize the moment and outrank Twitter. Co-funded by Breitbart investor and Trump supporter Rebekah Mercer, and used by celebrities such as Trump’s sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump and Republican Ted Cruz, the network was the closest port of call for U.S. President Donald Trump’s far-right supporters.
In the download charts, the app, which marketed itself as Twitter without rules, was at number one in no time. According to Parler CEO John Matze, there was an influx of around three million users within a few hours, which temporarily paralyzed a server. Screenshots circulating on the net show how threats, calls for violence and incitement to hatred become more numerous within a short period of time. Parler was part of the infrastructure on which the storming of the Capitol had been planned for weeks.
Donald Trump and the social networks: Parler is not neutral and does not comply with laws
Matze still expressed himself on Thursday in the “New York Times” podcast “Sway” without remorse: “I don’t feel responsible for any of this and neither should the platform.” Parler, he said, is neutral and abides by the law.
But the lack of oversight that made Parler attractive to right-wing extremists became the network’s undoing just hours later. Last Friday, Apple demanded the company step up content moderation within 24 hours – going against Parler’s business model. A few hours after Apple, Google went a step further and removed the Parler app from the Play Store. A day later, Apple followed suit and deleted the app from the store. Finally, on Saturday, Parler was completely disabled when Amazon refused to allow the group to use Amazon Web Services’ cloud servers, taking the service offline.
Criticism of Twitter & Co: Breaking up of Parler also questionable – communication channels for whistleblowers.
Shortly before, a group of Internet activists allegedly hacked the platform and downloaded all content – including user information and deleted posts around January 6. The leaked information has not yet been verified. The company has meanwhile announced it will sue Amazon, but for the time being Parler will likely remain offline.
Commentaries around the world are now criticizing the market power of tech companies. Given the existing profiles of extreme right-wing heads of state such as Narendra Modi or Rodrigo Duterte, the strike against Donald Trump is questionable, he said. The dismantling of Parler is also questionable, he said, given the need for alternative networks and encrypted communication channels for whistleblowers and the politically persecuted. “As for deplatforming, it doesn’t sit well with democracies for a small group of corporate leaders to make decisions of such magnitude. Even if the outcome is right for democracy,” commented Markus Reuter of netzpolitik.org, for example.
After Trump’s blocking on Twitter: Trump fans look for other platforms
One winner, on the other hand, is the provider Gab. According to CEO Andrew Tobra, Gab registered more than 600,000 new accounts shortly after Trump’s Twitter exit. During the events on January 6, traffic here is said to have jumped by around 40 percent. Meanwhile, the social network’s homepage features almost exclusively extreme right-wing and right-wing conservative posts and memes. Like Parler, Gab also positions itself against “censorship” and content moderation. Hate, violence and incitement, but also false information and illegally created nude images can circulate freely there.
Also benefiting was the live streaming platform Dlive. As the New York Times reported, at least nine people shared live videos of the storming of the Capitol, which in turn attracted several thousand viewers. Those who streamed apparently even earned money during the riot. The audience is said to have transferred around $2,000 to a streamer via Dlive. The company has since announced that it will delete accounts with links to the riots.
Donald Trump after Twitter suspension: Which platform will he now make his mouthpiece?
The question remains whether Donald Trump will follow his followers and choose a new platform as his mouthpiece. A statement from the White House says he is in talks with various media outlets. Team members of U.S. President Donald Trump now use Gab as well as the sparsely moderated service MeWe to disseminate messages.