On January 6th 2021, Facebook and Twitter disabled US president Donald Trump’s accounts. Citing risk for further incitement of violence, Twitter permanently suspended the president’s account, while Facebook has disabled his account for ‘at least’ the remainder of his presidency.
Election meddling, mental well-being, market manipulation, and the global pandemic bringing technology to the fore conspired to make 2020 a year of social media company reckoning. While a wide variety of issues related to technology companies, including anti-trust concerns, privacy concerns, and the social and legal responsibility of social media companies have been debated for years, 2020 brought sharp civil society and governmental scrutiny of tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and Amazon. Governments began cracking down on the companies and will do so increasingly in 2021.
That Facebook and Twitter banished the US government’s highest office signals a new and stronger role for social media companies in society. Could Facebook and Twitter’s censorship of the US president incite a backlash from users, spurring popularity of other platforms?
Or, perhaps it will be the first major indication of a new phase of social media in society, where governments closely regulate social media fora and companies develop novel governance and societal policies with greater responsibility.