After he was shut out of his favorite platforms of Twitter and Facebook for his serial lying and inflaming his supporters to stage an insurrection, Trump promised to start his own system to reach his fans. It turned out to be underwhelming, consisting of basically a blog that did not have the kinds of features that the major social media platforms provide that enable wider participation and it was the target of much derision by late night TV comedians. Today it was announced that he was shutting it down for good after less than a month, which will no doubt prompt more jokes.
Those who attempt to visit the page are now greeted with a web form asking for their contact information to receive updates through email or text message.
The blog, called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” was launched May 4 and came months after the former President had been banned from Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR).
At the time, the page was billed as a platform by which Trump could speak directly to his supporters.
As someone who has been blogging continuously 2005, I can testify that it takes some time and effort but not a whole lot. But either it was too much work for him, even though he has people who can provide the content on his behalf, or he did not get enough attention to satisfy his needs.
The whole business of Twitter and Facebook suspending or permanently banning him is deeply problematic. They are private companies and have the right to decide what appears on their platforms, just like I have the right to ban people from this blog. The difference is that their platforms reach vast numbers of people and banning some people and not others has a major impact on public discourse.
The basic problem here is that they are monopolies. If there was a competitive marketplace of social media platforms, then being banned from one platform would not matter as much.
I think the government and society in general need to come to grips with the basic issue of whether these companies are publishers and thus have the right to decide what is published or they are exclusively platforms for the exchange of information that have no responsibility for the content that appears. The companies argue that they are the latter in order to avoid liability for anything that appears on their sites but also want to reserve the right to act as publishers to avoid being blamed for hate speech and incitements to violence. They cannot be allowed to have it both ways.
It is only a matter to time until legislation is introduced to force the issue. New anti-trust legislation or more vigorous enforcement of existing ones that can break up monopolies would be a good place to start.