10 votes

Trump's executive order isn't only about Twitter; it's also attempting to ensure that Facebook won't change their own approach in the lead-up to the election


  1. Deimos
    (edited )
    Casey Newton wrote about Facebook employees debating whether they should take any action on the same posts as Twitter did, since they're cross-posted to Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts:...

    Casey Newton wrote about Facebook employees debating whether they should take any action on the same posts as Twitter did, since they're cross-posted to Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts: Leaked posts show Facebook employees asking the company to remove Trump’s threat of violence

    A little more on the topic in his newsletter from today as well: Facebook agonizes over Trump's posts

    Edit: and one more that just went up a few minutes ago now, making it official that they're not going to do anything: Facebook won’t take any action on Trump’s post about shootings in Minnesota - Mark Zuckerberg's rationale

    9 votes
  2. Kuromantis
    (Tangentially related; Narendra Modi has 45 million likes on his Facebook page)

    As the United States enters a pandemic summer, with more than 100,000 Americans already dead, and as tear gas engulfed Minneapolis last night, following protests after yet another killing of a black man by a police officer, the president tweeted that the “shooting starts” when the “looting starts.” The tweet echoed a historic line uttered by a police chief in Miami in 1967 during the civil-rights unrest that was also widely condemned at the time. Twitter hid that tweet behind a message saying that it was “glorifying violence”—a violation of the site’s terms of service—though the users could still choose to view it by clicking through. All this was an escalation of the seeming conflict between the president and Twitter: Just two days ago, the social-media company added a fact-check link to one of Donald Trump’s tweets for the first time. The president responded by issuing an executive order that is getting a lot of attention, but not the right kind.

    The president’s order targets Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which confers immunity to internet companies for content they host but is generated by their users—something without which they could not operate as they now do. We’ve already seen a flood of lengthy commentaries and expert analyses of the legislative basis of the order. Legal experts have derided it as “unlawful and unenforceable.” A Vice News headline worried that it could “ruin the internet.” And a senior legislative counsel at the ACLU pointed out that “ironically, Donald Trump is a big beneficiary of Section 230”—because it gives him unfettered access to the public through social media. A New York Times analysis similarly said that the order could “harm one person in particular”: the president.

    In reality, Trump's salvo on social-media companies has primarily an audience of one: Mark Zuckerberg. And it is already working. After the executive order was issued, Facebook’s CEO quickly gave an interview to Fox News in which he said, “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.” He added, “Private companies probably shouldn't be, especially these platform companies, shouldn't be in the position of doing that.”

    President Trump does very well on Facebook, as my colleagues Ian Bogost and Alexis Madrigal have written, because “his campaign has been willing to cede control to Facebook’s ad-buying machinery”—both now, and in 2016. The relationship is so smooth that Trump said Zuckerberg congratulated the president for being “No. 1 on Facebook” at a private dinner with him. Bloomberg has reported that Facebook’s own data-science team agreed, publishing an internal report concluding how much better Donald Trump was in leveraging “Facebook’s ability to optimize for outcomes.” This isn’t an unusual move for Facebook and its clients. Bloomberg has reported that Facebook also offered its “white-glove” services to the Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte, to help him “maximize the platform’s potential and use best practices.” Duterte dominated political conversation on the site the month before the Philippines’ May 2016 presidential election. And once elected, Duterte banned independent press from attending his inauguration, instead live-streaming it on Facebook—a win-win for the company, which could then collect data from and serve ads to the millions who had little choice but to turn to the site if they wanted to see their president take office.

    (Tangentially related; Narendra Modi has 45 million likes on his Facebook page)

    The environment which the country headed into the 2016 election were five months in which all stripes of misinformation went easily viral on Facebook, including stories that falsely claimed that the pope had endorsed Donald Trump, or that Hillary Clinton had sold weapons to ISIS. These stories were viewed millions of times on the platform, many of them outperforming traditional news sources. The pressure to keep Facebook friendly to the Trump campaign continued unabated after the election. When Facebook appeared to be considering changes to its microtargeting rules in 2019—for example not allowing political campaigns to use the same level of microtargeting tools that product advertisers can, a potential strike at “a major Trump ad strategy,”—the Trump reelection campaign swiftly attacked the platform, and the rules were left unchanged.

    There are already widespread news reports of how Trump is trying to “punish” Twitter or Facebook. In reality, the former has given him an unfettered megaphone with no friction for years—only recently adding an extra click to one of his tweets—and the latter surely welcomes the millions his campaign will spend on the forthcoming election. Facebook is also likely to continue algorithmically amplifying divisive, polarizing or dubious content. Again and again, people tend to underestimate this president, whose grammar and punctuation may leave something to be desired but whose political instincts are keen. What else can you call his ability—in the middle of this summer of pandemic and as a major American city erupts in anger against yet another police killing—to have so many newspapers, analysts, and nongovernmental organizations spend so much time doing close readings of an executive order to assess its legality, coherence, or potential for becoming a law, as if any of that matters an iota. In the meantime, Trump remains focused on the only thing that matters to his 2020 campaign: Keeping Facebook in line until November 3, 2020.

    1 vote