The unintended consequences of dropping an account with 88 billion followers
By Ricky Browne
Twitter’s decision to permanently ban US President Donal Trump from its platform hit the company’s share price, with a fall in value of more than US$5 billion on the first day.
The social media platform took the decision to ban President Trump after the US Capitol building was attacked by a mob of his supporters, resulting in the deaths of five people, including a policeman.
Trump was a prolific user of Twitter and had some 88 million followers — one of the largest followings on the social media platform.
The stock fell from a value of US$51.48 on Friday January 8, to open at US$47.15 on Monday.
As of the end of trade on Tuesday, the share had fared no better, closing at US$47.05.
But Twitter was not only hurt in its wallet by its decision. It was also hit with negative comments from world leaders.
It is estimated that Trump brought US$2 billion or more in value to Twitter over the last 10 years, with people logging on to read his more than 10,000 tweets and to maybe stay longer to read other tweets.
And notwithstanding the fact that the move to ban Trump has been supported or even celebrated by many people, there are still some who have spoken out against the move, which they see as a limitation on freedom of speech.
Those who have spoken out against the move include German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mexican President Lopez Obrador.
On January 11, Merkel was quoted as criticising Twitter’s decision to ban the President, saying it was a “problematic” breach of the “fundamental right to free speech.”
Merkel is not known to have a Twitter account, and is not seen as a strong supporter of Trump.
Her opinion was made even more clear by her spokesman, Steffen Seibert.
“The right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance,” her spokesman said.
“Given that, the chancellor considers it problematic that the president’s accounts have been permanently suspended.”
He said that the chancellor agreed with the practice of flagging Trump’s inaccurate posts, but added that any curbs on free expression should be decided by the law and not by private companies.
Earlier, the move was condemned by Mexican President Andre Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is widely believed to be a supporter of the US president, and who holds a Twitter account.
It was reported that Obrador said, “I don’t like anybody being censored or taking away from the right to post a message on Twitter or Face(book). I don’t agree with that, I don’t accept that”.
He continued, saying “How can you censor someone: ‘Let’s see, I, as the judge of the Holy Inquisition, will punish you because I think what you’re saying is harmful.’
Over in France, while President Macron did not appear to speak directly to the move, his finance minister Bruno Le Maire did have something to say. The minister expressed shock about the decision and said “Digital regulation should not be done by the digital oligarchy itself . . . Regulation of the digital arena is a matter for the sovereign people, governments and the judiciary.”
But the US social media platforms seem to be in a kind of frenzy to not just shut down President Trump – as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube has also banned him – but also to shut out other upcoming social media platforms that have become attractive to the right wing.
Parler is one example. The social media platform bases itself on not restricting freedom of speech, and therefore gets some extremist right-wing views expressed openly.
The site was discussed extensively in an earlier story on the Matt Haycox Daily at https://matt-haycox.com/parler-talks-its-way-to-millions-of-new-followers/
At the time of writing in November the company thought it was on track to be bigger than Twitter in a year’s time.
Parler was number one on the Apple App Store, but has now been taken offline entirely, meaning that its more than 10 million customers no longer have access via Google.
But, undeterred, people who have taken offence to the restrictions placed by Twitter, have been moving to new platforms such as Signal and Telegram. More than 25 million new users were reported to have joined Telegram from around the world over the previous three days – many of them in India.
Meanwhile, while Trump faces the prospect of being the first President in US history to be impeached twice, it is said that Trump is looking into the possibility of building his own social media platform in the future. If he can take even half of his 88 million followers with him, he may be onto something.