ENTERTAINMENT

DOUGLAS MURRAY: Trump didn't use Twitter, he used it to make money


You might think the most powerful man in the world is the President of the United States. But you'd be wrong.

Because, as last week showed, the big tech companies even have power over him. No one in human history has had the reach and influence that a small group of men on the west coast of America has.

In fact, some things over the past week have shown a dramatic escalation in the desire of big tech companies to decide what everyone on the planet should think, know, and say – what in the "rejection" of Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, culminating in the United States of America – now permanently suspended from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

You might think the most powerful man in the world is the President of the United States. But you'd be wrong

Of course, tech companies have achieved too much in a while. It's been a few years since Google dropped its childish "don't be angry" motto.

And maybe there is a reason: As tech companies grew, they found that the world was a little more complex than their playground liberalism got them to think about.

As they became the most powerful publishing platforms in the world, they began to wonder questions that the free press, governments and other institutions had to grapple with for centuries. Questions like what should and shouldn't be published.

No one in human history has had the reach and influence that a small group of men on the west coast of America has. Pictured: Donald Trump's controversial tweets made Twitter big money

No one in human history has had the reach and influence that a small group of men on the west coast of America has. Pictured: Donald Trump's controversial tweets made Twitter big money

What constitutes a serious opinion and what does not? Companies like Twitter had no idea how to deal with these issues as they grew surprisingly fast. And the people who worked them for them didn't help them much.

After the Democrats lost the 2016 election to Trump, the big tech companies employed a multitude of men and women who previously worked in the Obama administration. And they duly brought their predictable prejudices into Silicon Valley, embedding prejudices that didn't need much more reinforcement.

It was the same in Great Britain. When former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg lost his seat in the 2017 election, where did he find people willing to pay him the highest dollar?

Why, of course, Silicon Valley, where the Liberal Democrat leader Facebook became "Head of Global Politics and Communications"?

It was the same in Great Britain. When former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (pictured) lost his seat in the 2017 election, where did he find people willing to pay him the highest dollar?

It was the same in Great Britain. When former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (pictured) lost his seat in the 2017 election, where did he find people willing to pay him the highest dollar?

Like his American colleagues, Clegg dragged a large number of otherwise unemployed Liberal Democrats to Silicon Valley in his lucrative entourage. Everyone makes top dollars to dictate what you and I and everyone else can know.

Because that is the situation these platforms are in now. In the beginning they struggled with the simple questions. Should they allow incitement to murder and other activities that are obviously against the law of the country? Of course not, one would think.

But the tech companies weren't at all clear.

And when they tried to clean up their act, they moved too late and in dubious directions.

For example, while Twitter began removing certain "right-wing" provocateurs like Katie Hopkins from its platform, they continued to allow the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group (which, among other things, carried out the 2008 Mumbai massacre) to operate an account within sight.

The world's most powerful platforms seemed to be powered by the slowest kids in the class.

In fact, these companies are way out of their depth. And it's not just ignorance that they show.

Despite Google's famous early slogan, what it and other big tech companies have done throughout their history is clearly, deeply evil.

Twitter, for example, has become one of the most powerful companies in the world – it raises huge sums of money for a tiny number of people.

The business model is simple. Whenever there is major controversy, it enriches Twitter, which makes money in advertising, data collection, and much more. (Still, it does rely on others – you, me, people around the world – to point out mistakes and correct what they post for free.)

The social media companies like the money they make from their model. And so they loved Donald Trump.

Of course, they pretended not to. Five years ago, the then candidate for the US presidency used Twitter with incredible skill. Trump knew the liberal media would treat him as an idiot or falsely report him, so he decided to speak to his supporters and gain new followers by going straight to them on Twitter.

Every time Trump tweeted something, it went around the globe in a matter of seconds, drawing more and more people's attention to the company and building its brand.

Then he won the presidency and some of the Democrats and other leftists began to blame themselves. Could they have helped someone whose politics they didn't like? Certainly. But they had also done something worse.

Platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube thrive on differences of opinion. You don't want consensus. You want anger and anger. These are the things that get people to get involved on their platforms.

Mild centrism doesn't quite cut it. For example, on YouTube, the more thoughtful videos rarely get the most attention. The platform is set up so that videos do well when they promise that a certain political figure (for example) has "destroyed" their opponent. Or "destroy" them or any other number of vanities that resemble a computer game.

Over time, this computer reality established by the tech companies infected the real world. Left-wing commentators in the UK popped up on the media only to say that something they knew was going to go 'viral' on social media.

They didn't have to do the real job of journalism – they could get famous overnight simply by being amazingly abusive or disrespectful to someone.

Our political world – from Donald Trump to the radical left – is the creation of social media companies.

And as they dominate, the way they have used their power has become increasingly outrageous. There was a major corruption scandal involving Joe Biden's family prior to the US elections in November. The story was broken for consecutive days by the New York Post – America's oldest and most venerable newspaper.

How did the tech platforms react? In the most egregious way imaginable. They censored the story.

Facebook and Twitter have banned the New York Post's social media accounts. In addition, they prevented all other users from "sharing" this story. Before an election, they decided what the American people might or might not know about any of their candidates. They did it because they wanted Joe Biden to win.

But that's just one of the nasty moves Big Tech has taken this year. Just last week, YouTube removed TalkRadio's account from its platform on charges of questioning its lockdown and face mask guidelines.

Who the hell do these people think they are to blow journalists off like that? There are lots of good questions to ask about our government's advice – and the advice of authorities around the world – about the coronavirus.

Much disinformation has been released by members of the government and other positions of authority. A free press should question and question such a policy.

But YouTube was new to the game and way too powerful and decided that they could decide what the British could or could not know.

As in previous cases, they only reinstalled the TalkRadio account by pretending that the ban was a mistake. It was not like that. YouTube has a long history of simply lying about its own behavior. Because it gets away with it. Because big tech always does.

But this week companies took their biggest step yet: Facebook and Twitter banned Trump. Twitter also suspended its national security adviser Michael Flynn and former federal attorney Sidney Powell, both Trump loyalists.

Of course, the President's behavior and many of his statements since the elections have been outrageous. But he's the President of the United States (for a few days at least) – technically the most powerful person on the planet. And he was voted out of millions as opposed to the tech billionaires.

But once again, Big Tech knows best. It knows best for you, for me, and for everyone else on the planet. They rejected their creation – Trump – because they no longer needed him. He'd helped make her rich, like all of us.

Because, like Trump, many of us thought we were going to use big tech. We weren't. You used us.

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