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Trump, Twitter and Facebook

If we in the UK think our politicians are crazy, we only need to look at the US to feel a bit better, specifically at Donald Trump. Sometimes it's sit-com material with Trump as America's answer to Basil Fawlty.

He has of course fallen out with Twitter after they first applied a fact-check label to one of his posts about mail-in ballots and then applied a warning label to another that Twitter adjudged to be inciting violence.

As steam trailed from Trump's ears he threatened to enact an executive order to shut Twitter down.

I'm no fan of social media at all and would rejoice at its extinction, but it has to be for the right reasons. It is as plain as day that the only reason Trump really wants it shut down is because it isn't wildly applauding everything he says.

On the one hand he derides China for clamping down on its citizens in Hong Kong, yet he wants to do the same to the citizens of America. He wants the personality cult of Trump to pervade the media at the expense of everything else.

It's all very odd. Most of the world can see Trump for the egotistical buffoon he really is, but somehow 50%(ish) of America cannot.

What's noticeable is that while Twitter takes the flak, Facebook is keeping its head down. Zuckerberg is hiding behind faux principles and giving us a nice demonstration of what the word 'spineless' means.

Back in October last year, Zuckerberg got a good slapping from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when he was dragged up in front of Congress. One of the things he said was:

If anyone, including a politician, is saying things that can cause, that is calling for violence or could risk imminent physical harm — or voter or census suppression when we roll out the census suppression policy — we will take that content down.

Despite this, Zuckerberg is not doing anything. Instead, he's saying:

We have a different policy than, I think, Twitter on this.

I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.

To a certain extent he has a point, I'll admit. Censorship can be a slippery slope and there should be protections for free speech in any decent democracy. But there's a difference when we're talking about politicians. They need to be called out when they lie because these things influence the most powerful thing most people can do: vote. Yes, individuals call out politicians on a regular basis, but on social media that's just noise amongst a plethora of other noise.

There are times when platforms need to make a stand and I think Twitter got it right. They didn't remove any content at all, but they applied labels to it to encourage people to think about what they're about to read.

Facebook should have done likewise but, as we've seen a few times before, Zuckerberg's prime motivation is advertising dollars and angering Trump might hurt his bottom line.