2021-01-12 大宝贝 19417

'Four years of propaganda': Trump social media bans come too late, experts say


In the 24 hours since the US Capitol in Washington was seized by a Trump-supporting mob disputing the results of the 2020 election, American social media companies have barred the president from their platforms for spreading falsehoods and inciting the crowd.


Facebook, Snapchat and Twitch suspended Donald Trump indefinitely. Twitter locked his account temporarily. Multiple platforms removed his messages.


Those actions, coming just days before the end of Trump’s presidency, are too little, too late, according to misinformation experts and civil rights experts who have long warned about the rise of misinformation and violent rightwing rhetoric on social media sites and Trump’s role in fueling it.


“This was exactly what we expected,” said Brian Friedberg, a senior researcher at the Harvard Shorenstein Center’s Technology and Social Change Project who studies the rise of movements like QAnon. “It is very consistent with how the coalescing of different factions responsible for what happened yesterday have been operating online, and how platforms’ previous attempts to deal with them have fallen short.”


YouTube removed “tens of thousands of QAnon-videos and terminated hundreds of channels” around the time of Facebook’s measures. It also upxed its policy to target more conspiracy theory videos that promote real-world violence, but it still stopped short of banning QAnon content outright. A spokesman from YouTube noted the company had taken a number of other actions to address QAnon content, including adding information panels sharing facts about QAnon on videos as early as 2018.


Grygiel cited the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which regulates the distribution of government propaganda, as an example of one law that limits the government’s communication. But such regulation does not exist for the president’s Twitter account, Grygiel said. Instead we have relied on the assumption the president would not use his social media account to incite an insurrection.


“What happened this week is the product of four years of systematic propaganda from the presidency,” Grygiel said.


In the absence of any meaningful regulation, tech companies have had little incentive to regulate their massively profitable platforms, curb the spread of falsehoods that produce engagement and moderate the president.


That’s why experts say things have to change. In 2020, Republicans and Democrats amplified calls to regulate big tech. The events this week underscore that the reckoning over big tech must include measures aimed at addressing the risks posed by leaders lying and promoting violence on their platforms, some argue.


“Social media platforms must be held accountable for their complicity in the destruction of our democracy,” he added, arguing that in absence of meaningful enforcement from social media, Congress must pass better legislation to address hate speech on these platforms.


Facebook and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.


Grygiel said it was time to move away from the idea that a president should be tweeting at all. Adam Mosseri, head of Facebook’s subsidiary Instagram, said on Twitter on Thursday evening that Facebook has long said it believes “regulation around harmful content would be a good thing”. He acknowledged that Facebook “cannot tackle harmful content without considering those in power as a potential source”.


Grygiel said: “We need non-partisan work here. We need legislation that ensures no future president can ever propagandize the American people in this way again.”