Purge kicks off social media exodus

Editorial | Mary Ma 13 Jan 2021

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Twitter's permanent ban on US President Donald Trump was "problematic."

It's a great deal more than that.

And for the first time since 2019, there is now at least one cause that connects Hongkongers, whatever their political colors.

The so-called yellow-camp followers, with aspirations of greater democracy, were quick to view the ban as a blatant encroachment on the freedom of speech.

And their more conservative blue-camp counterparts ridiculed Twitter, saying its ban on Trump served to erode standards held high by Americans over many years.

To make matters worse, Twitter is not acting alone.

In a concerted exercise, Facebook is cleansing all pro-Trump posts that include the phrase "stop the steal" - referring to the highly contentious US presidential election.

Google, Apple and Amazon are also kicking out apps like Parler - a Twitter competitor that has become increasingly popular, and not only with Trump supporters.

Such widespread purges are more than just a ban on "incitement to violence" as Twitter claimed.

Whenever it comes to the crunch, these US internet giants merge without hesitation into an oligarchy that serves political interests - even if it costs them commercially.

Twitter's ban on Trump is expected to cost Twitter dearly. The president's personal account had more than 80 million followers, while his official presidential account had more than 30 million before they were shut down. Together, they accounted for almost half of all tweets on Twitter.

It was no accident that Twitter's stock price slumped on the news, while other tech stocks rose.

It's so obvious that Twitter is determined to banish Trump for good, no matter the cost.

The internet giants have now created the centerpiece of the Democrats' drive to keep Trump - or Trumpism - from ever returning in 2024 or after.

But this strange marriage could be short-lived as the internet giants share no common interest other than making Trump disappear.

The Democrats' agenda of "big government" calls for greater state control over businesses and, to an extent, individuals.

It is poles apart from the Republicans' capitalist agenda.

Trumpism stretches the "Blue-Red" gap further to make it totally unacceptable to the Democrats.

And the frenzy with which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted to impeach Trump after failing to press Vice President Mike Pence to strip the president of his powers is symbolic of the fears that she and other senior Democrats have with the prospect of Trump returning.

So it's vital for them to prevent Trump from continuing to build his influence after leaving office.

The ban by mainstream media and social media is meant to serve this political interest at the cost of the US constitutional right of freedom of speech.

But this might just be wishful thinking.

A seismic movement has already begun in the social media sphere. Americans fear the ban on Trump could also happen to them in future, and many are switching to alternative platforms including MeWe (an alternative to Facebook), Parler (Twitter) and Signal (WhatsApp).

While nobody can predict what will happen in 2024 politically, Twitter immediately has much to lose commercially.

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January 2021

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