What the Shutdown of Donald Trump's Twitter Knockoff Teaches Us about Social Media's Frankenstein

Donald Trump's 29-day-old blog is no more.

Illustriously named "From the desk of Donald J. Trump," the microblogging site and Twitter knockoff was created by Trump's PAC partly to evade his social media ban in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection and partly to establish the Trump brand as its own social media force that did not need any help from Silicon Valley. But it didn't work out that way.

Although Trump maintains an iron grip of fear on a shrinking Republican party and its national machienery, his impact and popularity began to drop almost immediately after Facebook, Twitter and other mainstream social media platforms kicked him off for inciting his mob to invade the Capitol. As a prelude to the shutdown, Trump's online clout plummeted over the last few months, with his website, including this much-touted 'blog', getting fewer visitors than Petfinder and Delish.

Evidently, the mocking Trump received in light of his waning online popularity was a key reason for "from the desk of DJT" to disappear from the Internet.

Rightly, there is more mocking and celebrating of what will now take place in the history books as yet another Trump failure. The list is long: from Trump Casino to Trump Steak to the Trump presidency.

But the mocking, pointing, an laughing at Trump's latest failure should not obscure a damning fact this episode proves: social media companies, through their laizzes faire content policies, are almost entirely responsible for creating the Frankenstein of Donald Trump and his band of seditious domestic terrorists.

Donald Trump was at best a bad New York socialite prior to the spread of his racist, neo-Nazi propaganda burst onto the political scene through the use of Facebook and Twitter. In fact, Trump's debut on the political scene was by publicizing on Twitter his Fox News appearance to question President Obama's birthplace in October of 2011. One of his most famous and widespread tweets in his 11 years on Twitter remains a 2012 tweet accusing President Obama of releasing a fraudulent birth certificate.

Trump did not only use his social media prowess against Democrats, of course. During the Republican primary for the 2016 cycle, his Republican opponents made for some of his best marks. The legendary nicknames that defined Trump's brass style and later came to spread fear in the hearts of anyone in the Republican party thinking about breaking ranks were first applied to people like 'Liddle Marco (Rubio),' 'Lyin' Ted (Cruz),' and 'Low-energy Jeb (Bush).'

Trump's social media following, especially on Twitter, grew along with his public brazenness. His Twitter taunts and rants became the centerpiece of cable and network news stories, and his shamelessless in those messages helped drown out everything else.

He had help, to be sure. Vladimir Putin's Russia saw an opening with Trump's social media exploitation and employed a large scale intelligence and technological operation (through the use of social media bots to artificially amplify Trump's message). Russia also used its subsidiary ops like Wikileaks and Edward Snowden to systematically divide the Democratic party through the promotion of Bernie Sanders and relentless elevation of baseless allegations against Hillary Clinton.

All of that got Trump elected president in 2016.

But all of it - Trump's rise as a birther and then as a presidential candidate, Russian invasion of American democracy, and Trump's reign of despotic power over what once was the party of Lincoln both during and after his presidency - were made possible by social media companies and their conscious decision to leave Trump unpoliced - even when he actively and willingly violated what meager content policies existed - and gave him a pass.

Twitter even invented a new content policy that allowed it to leave up content that would otherwise be objectionable if the content came from someone important (i.e. Trump). Twitter called exempting white nationalist hate speech from Trump a "public interest exemption."

It should be noted that although Democrats labored on a daily basis to counter a runaway social media Frankenstein acting as president, plenty of them failed to recognize the existential threat to our Republic it was ballooning up to be. Then-candidate Kamala Harris was the only prominent presidential candidate to campaign on the importance of banning Trump from social media, and for that she had to suffer seering indignities from the likes of Elizabeth Warren, who openly mocked the idea at a primary debate.

None of what happened since the day Donald Trump began to play into birtherism against President Obama on Twitter, to the rise of his influence in Republican and media circles, to his nomination by the GOP, to his fateful presidency that culminated in an insurrection against the United States would have been possible without the complete cooperation of social media companies. Social media companies instituted algorithms that promotes adversarial content over the truth, watched with mesmerization as every outrageous Trump tweet brought waves of traffic to their apps and websites, and even created special exemptions to allow Trump to stay on their platforms despite thumbing his thumb at their noses.

Politically, Donald Trump is nothing by himself. Without social media, he can't even keep enough people interested to keep a website going. Without Twitter, he can't generate enough interest for people to read his badly worded rants/press releases. Without the help of an adversary-prone algorithm and sheepish social media companies willing to give him all the oxygen in the room, Donald Trump is emasculated, lame, has-been.

So while Donald Trump is responsible for the content he has put out there and the hatred and violence he has ginned up, we cannot simply ignore the massive platforms that provided him his megaphone. They are still doing far too little to suppress hate speech and violence from gaining a foothold on their platroms. Donald Trump may be banned from social media now, but the platforms responsible for giving his assault on democracy its full-blown, complete, dangerous form have yet to fully admit their complicity in the peril our democracy finds itself in, alone alone make amends.

They must. Because next time, the coup might not fail.

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