Hats off to Big Corporate Social Media. They first started out as little websites where people could “share” stuff and engage in “social networking”. Then they started to call themselves “platforms” and rightly so as such was to become their reach, ubiquity, and deep embedding into the fabric of society that people could be forgiven for thinking that they actually were the Internet itself.
As they continued in their unprecedented growth into the virtual sovereign digital states that they are today, Big Corporate Social Media’s services had become just as essential to life as the public services that conventional governments guarantee their respective citizens. As such, they gained the same power over millions of people’s lives and wellbeing once associated only with national governments.
Today, Twitter “permanently suspended” the account of no less than the President of the United States. That officially makes Twitter more powerful than the US Government itself — and, disturbingly, more powerful than America’s enemies.
The irony here is in how it succeeded in doing what US President Donald Trump’s enemies can only pay lip service to doing for now — impeach and silence the President within its private sovereign realm. It did so in less than one tenth of the time it would likely have taken the whole US democratic apparatus to deliver the same result. And it did so with none of the transparency America’s democratic apparatus owes its participants.
Twitter is, of course, a private enterprise and its network and infrastructure private property. Thus its powers-that-be can allow — or disallow — anyone access to its platform. But, see, that is why it is more powerful than the US government. Twitter’s Netizens have no alternative place to go. Twitter enjoys the scale and the benefit of massive network ubiquity to render most alternatives effectively inconsequential. In a different context, that fact alone has for some time been the basis for antitrust rumblings in various quarters. In the context of Trump’s ouster from the platform, Twitter’s monopoly for now is regarded as a positive thing — selective tolerance of monopoly, right? And even if an alternative platform enterprise did emerge that could refuse to conform to today’s Facebook-Apple-Google-Twitter Axis, go its own, and succeed as a realistic alternative, who’s to say that this alternative would not one day behave the way Twitter does today?
For that matter, what if new social media networks hosted in other countries — notably “non-democratic” ones — emerge and host chatter deemed unacceptable to the “civil societies” of the West? Will Western countries start to put up their own versions of China’s Great Firewall to keep all that out?
The key thing to consider here is that Trump has an audience. In today’s hyper-networked world, voices find their audiences eventually. History is a trove of walls that had been put up by one empire or another but, in the end, the more competitive force won and the walls left standing that had become today’s quaint tourist destinations are testament to the futile hubris of wall-building.
The short of it is that the fact that Twitter had to resort to banishing US President Donald Trump highlights a long-unfolding failure of America’s coastal elite to win over his constituents competitively despite enjoying the backing of Big Corporate Mainstream Media and, of course, Big Corporate Social Media.
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