Donald Trump during a meeting with young Republicans last week, Evan Vucci / AP
“They bring drugs. They bring crime. They are rapists. And I assume that some are good people, ”said Donald Trump in 2015 in the speech in which he announced his campaign. These words and other comments referring to the Mexican immigrants posted in different videos have earned the President of the United States the suspension of his account on the Twitch streaming platform, known for its live video game broadcasts but increasingly open to content from another type. The measures taken by Twitch are based on the conditions of use of the platform, which prohibit behaviors that incite hatred. “Sorry, unless you have a time machine, this content is not available,” announces now the website that previously occupied the channel.
The platform thus adds to the list of networks and platforms that are taking positions in the face of the toxicity of the content that Trump pours on the Internet. Hours earlier, Reddit had done it, by deactivating the largest channel of support for Trump, The_Donald, where almost 800,000 users of this aggregator exchanged content. The arguments for the removal of this forum follow the line marked by Twitter in its recent performances and later continued by Twitch. According to the explanations of Steve Huffman, executive director of the platform, the group violated its rules regarding harassment and hate speech. The deactivation of The_Donald is part of a broader purge, in which an additional 2,000 communities were removed, most of them inactive, according to Wired.
To the responses directed specifically at Trump are added actions such as YouTube, which has blocked accounts and channels of known white supremacists for violating the platform’s policies that prohibit videos from linking to external content that incites hatred and messages that include statements about the inferiority of a protected group.
The first domino token fell in May when Twitter first warned that the Trump account was posting dubious information. The social network did this through a tag that accompanied the president’s tweets and recommended that users search for verified information on their claims. The president’s response was immediate. Within two hours, Trump tweeted: “Twitter is completely cracking down on FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” But the dripping has not stopped. Days later Snapchat did the same by announcing that it would stop promoting the president’s account – which accumulates 1.5 million followers – for inciting racial violence.
…. Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020
On June 18, Facebook timidly targeted this trend by removing an ad from the Trump campaign for containing Nazi symbology. The message featured an inverted red triangle, the insignia worn by Hitler’s political prisoners.
The most forceful performance of Mark Zuckerberg’s social network, which had been accumulating criticism – even within the company – for its passivity in this regard and the margin it gave to lies and disinformation, came last Friday. Zuckerberg backed down to announce that he would take action against hate speech along the lines that Twitter has been doing. His decision is especially surprising because just a month ago, when Twitter first applied its tag alongside a Trump tweet, the Facebook founder said his company should not be “an arbiter of truth.” The strategy of not touching Trump’s messages sparked an internal revolt in Palo Alto, his headquarters.
His promise came after the decision of a hundred companies to withdraw their advertising content from the platform. Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Unilever, Verizon, Ben & Jerrys and the movie distributor Magnolia Pictures, among others, joined the Stop the Hate for Profit campaign to bend their arms to Facebook. “Brands have an obligation to build a reliable and secure digital ecosystem. That is why our brands will not advertise on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, ”Unilever said in a statement, which has more than 400 brands of food, beverages, home and personal and animal care. However, the announced measures did not stop the boycott. “Much more can be done, especially given the division and hate speech present in this very polarized electoral period in the United States,” explained a company spokeswoman.
Trump’s behavior and the contents of his messages are not new. The novelty is the harshness with which social networks are acting, to which the president has already responded with threats of new regulations and even to force the closure of these platforms. “What appears to have changed is the assessment of the risk posed to platforms challenging you,” Gilad Edeman reasons on Wired. In his opinion, the recent loss of land by the president to a potential reelection has fueled the courage of these companies. “If the race narrows before November, we might discover how brave Silicon Valley really feels.”
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