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Trump escalates his attacks on social media

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It was a vexing day. Conversations about social media continued to dominate the capital. "Conversatio
 
August 29 · Issue #197 · View online
The Interface
It was a vexing day.
Conversations about social media continued to dominate the capital. “Conversations” is too strong a word — it was more like a sustained airing of petty grievances. As usual it was unclear what, if anything, would emerge from these grievances, other than another round of headlines about them.
Start with grievance No. 1: the president said he lost social media followers because of anti-conservative censorship:
“I think that Google and Facebook and Twitter, I think they treat conservatives and Republicans very unfairly. I could tell you that I have personal experience. I have a lot of people on the various platforms,” he said, citing a total following of 160 million accounts across different platforms. “That’s a lot of people. But I can tell you when things are different. And all of a sudden you lose people and you say, ‘Where did they go?’ They’ve taken off.”
In this environment anti-conservative censorship, the president amassed a following of 160 million people, but “all of a sudden you lose people.” In the case of Twitter, this complaint almost certainly had to do with this summer’s purge of bots and other bad actors. It’s not clear that the president had a specific criticism of Facebook or Google when it came to “treating conservatives and Republicans very unfairly,” at least in this context, but who knows that the next few hours will bring.
Grievance No. 2: the president tweeted a video suggesting that Google discriminated against him by not putting a link to his first address to Congress on its homepage. He included the hashtag #StopTheBias. Google explained that it historically has never promoted the president’s first address to Congress, which is not an official State of the Union address, and that the president’s complaint was groundless.
Grievance No. 3, which took place on Tuesday but continued to reverberate through the take-o-sphere today, is that a lot of Google News results about Trump contain articles about things he actually did, which paint him in a negative light.
It all felt sort of unbelievable that we were even talking about any of this.
Many people told the president to be quiet.
There was Kara Swisher: “Here’s the truest conundrum of the social media age: Those who complain loudest about being silenced never ever shut up.”
There was Josh Rogin: “Trump may not like that most of his media coverage is negative, but unlike Xi he doesn’t have the power to censor his critics. If he wants to know why Google searches on “Trump News” return mostly negative results, he should put down Twitter and pick up a mirror.”
There was even Paula Bolyard, supervising editor at PJ Media, who wrote the story about Trump’s Google News presence that inspired grievance No. 3: “The government has no business regulating private companies for their political views, and it would set a dangerous precedent to do so in this case. Government regulation would only make things worse. The Internet would be less free, and fewer voices would be allowed to have a say.”
One way the president has been able to gain back followers recently has been to unblock his critics on Twitter, which he has been required to do by a court order. He welcomed 41 such accounts back into the fold today.
Anyway: expect all of this to get an incredibly tedious airing when Jack Dorsey, Sheryl Sandberg, and probably no one from Google go before various Congressional subcommittees next week.

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Elsewhere
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How should we regulate facial recognition?
Facebook's Alex Hardiman joins The Atlantic as product chief
Making a Living Before Making It Big on YouTube
Launches
Twitter tested personalized “unfollow” suggestions, company confirms.
Facebook Watch goes international
Google’s video chat app comes to iPads and Android tablets
Takes
‘Overtourism’ Worries Europe. How Much Did Technology Help Get Us There?
How Facebook Has Flattened Human Communication
And finally ...
The British Diver Elon Musk Called A “Pedo” Threatened To Sue Him For Libel
Talk to me
Send me tips, questions, comments, and suggested unfollows: casey@theverge.com.
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