We all know that guy. The flushed-faced loudmouth at the bar, five drinks in, leaning over our shoulder, breathing hot beer, attempting to regale us with tales of past glory.
But when Twitter launched a decade ago, none of us could have imagined such a scenario playing out on the platform, with the most powerful person on the planetthe president of the United Statesstarring as “that guy.” And more than a few people want to that guy to shut up.
The unrelenting torrent of Trump tweets… is driving some users into fits of anger, depression and rolling shock.
Just two weeks after the inauguration of the United States’ 45th president, the calls that began nearly a year ago to ban Trump from Twitter are increasingly in volume. The unrelenting torrent from President Trump are driving some users into fits of anger, depression, and rolling shock. But banning Trump?
The last thing Twitter should do.
Trump should be allowed to tweet not because free speech is golden (though it isat least for now), or because the president deserves special privilege. Rather, Trump must be allowed to continue to tweet simply because it is our best and most transparent method of knowing the thoughts and opinions of someone who has, at least politically, frequently defied logic.
…Senators should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III.
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2017
The reasoning for keeping Trump active on Twitter is apparent in the 140-character trails leading up to his ascendancy to the White House.
According to Trump’s Twitter profile, he joined the social network in 2009; his first tweet was written in the third person to promote his appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. Whether that tweet was written by an assistant, or crafted while he was pretending to be his own publicist, it’s clear that Trump had a hunch: Twitter could be the perfect distribution vehicle for the expansion of his personal brand. And so it was.
Before winning the GOP nomination, Trump’s tweets were deemed by many as mere entertainment fodder from a colorful businessman.
But really: If Trump were a decade or two younger, people on both sides of the aisle would probably hit him with a label along the lines of “the social media candidate”he’s the first politician who rode a digital platform into the White House. Sure, his retweets are often awkwardly constructed and sometimes misspelled, but the end result’s the same: more than any other medium, Trump’s at home on Twitter. It works for him.
Rememberbefore winning the Republican nomination, pundits looked at Trump as a colorful businessman-turned-reality-star tossing his hat into a presidential election. At best, his tweets served as late-night-host material. But when Trump shocked (most of) the world and became the Republican nominee for president, the calls to boot him from Twitter started.
Months later, he won an election. The calls to eject him from the platform were amplified. Trump, of course, relentlessly slapped back at his supposed enemies and critics on Twitternothing changed. It was as if he hadn’t just won the highest office in the nation, if not the world.
Unlike President Barack Obama’s deft use of Twitter to make official announcements or the occasional quip about some major pop-culture event, Trump’s Twitter stream seems be channeled direct from his id, consequences be damned.
According to recent New York Times story, Trump has used Twitter to insult 305 people since declaring his intention to run for president back in 2015.
President Obama will go down as perhaps the worst president in the history of the United States!
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2016
Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a…..
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2017
At this point, the outrage over his tweets is so widespread, petitions calling for his ouster are legion. One garnered more than 55,000 digital signatures. And a recent poll indicated nearly 70 percent of U.S. citizens in favor of Trump not Tweeting.
Despite Trump’s outspoken rhetoric, he’s (apparently) managed to stay within Twitter’s rules of conduct. Among those rules are guidelines prohibiting the harassment of other users or creating “false or misleading content.” Plenty of people believe (and have tried to make the case) that Trump’s already violated those guidelines. Yet, his account remains active.
Months ago, when pressed by Slate as to whether Twitter would ever ban Trump, a Twitter spokesperson said, “The Twitter Rules apply to all accounts, including verified accounts.” So, in theory, if he crosses Twitter’s line, Twitter could play hardball. (As to whether they really would follow through … that’s another conversation.)
The last thing anyone concerned about the future of the U.S. should want is for Trump to suddenly go quiet. Cutting off Trump’s spigot of verbal freestyling, particularly now that he has his hands on the most powerful military on the planet, would be an epic mistake.
The last thing anyone concerned about the future of the U.S. should want is for Trump to suddenly go quiet.
Is there a chance one of his tweets may, on their own, become a source of real-world conflict? Sure. It’s a risk, and one that maybe already came to fruition. The scarier prospect, though, is a Trump White House that, after publicly outlining wide-ranging plans to dismantle a number of existing policies and programs, suddenly goes silent on social media.
If you think the anxiety on social media is high now, imagine the crowd of voices speculating and wondering about Trump’s next move, with no hints from his Twitter account of what he’s thinkingyou’ll quickly realize that, at this point, silencing Trump would do more harm than good.
In making the request to ban Trump from Twitter, we’re forgetting the power social media affords us: a historically unique ability to speak truth to powerdirectly. It was never possible before, but our memories on social media are short, and maybe we’re taking the access Twitter gives us to the powerful for granted.
Beyond offering the public a glimpse of what’s going on in Trump’s head, his presence on Twitter allows us to engage in a public dialogue (even if Trump doesn’t participate beyond the first tweet). These dialogues have already fostered two historic protest marches, and we’re not even two weeks into his presidency.
Just days after Trump’s immigration ban on majority-Muslim countries went into effect and sent social media into overdrive with messages opposing the action, on Monday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (an opponent of the ban) announced new measures devoted to addressing harassment on Twitter.
“We’re taking a completely new approach to abuse on Twitter. Including having a more open & real-time dialogue about it every step of the way,” wrote Dorsey, highlighting a message from Twitter’s VP of engineering, Ed Ho, who promised “long overdue fixes to mute/block and stopping repeat offenders.”
That Twitter’s now devoting more attention to the issue of harassment just as the conversations on it are heating up to epic levels is smart, even if it won’t satisfy those who still feel as if nothing short of a complete silencing of Trump is enough. Yet Dorsey, despite his obvious disagreements with Trump, hasn’t wavered on allowing Trump to continue tweeting (for now, anyhow). Dorsey’s stance may be written in the history books as a vital piece of the puzzle, depending on where our world’s headed. But we’ll have to wait until this era’s in the behind us to fully comprehend it.
In the meantime: Twitter hears you, loud and clear, but they also seem to know that being “woke” starts with not closing your eyes.