Biting The Hand That Feeds: Trump Threatens Twitter Shutdown

Presidential threats can yield big media value, promotion and engagement. But what if that formula changes -- by your own hand?

Think about what happens when a specific social-media platform, Twitter, decides to add a link, an asterisk of sorts to a Trump tweet message. If the President says there is rampant voter mail-in ballot abuse, Twitter adds a link to that tweet with other information about that subject.

In response, Trump has threatened to close down Twitter -- which few if any people believe will happen.

But blue sky this for a moment (maybe black sky). What if this were to happen in part or in whole? Doesn’t this also hurt Trump? He gains so much from this platform: Free media, unfettered publicity and access are all at stake.

For many, the move means Twitter is now edging toward being an actual “publisher” of news content -- not just its current position as internet “platform.”



Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act frees internet companies from the responsibilities of traditional publishers. So sites like Facebook and Twitter that “host” comments/commentary they don't produce, edit or even screen, can't be sued.

Some say Twitter’s recent move on Trump doesn’t go over the line, that this activity can be selective in places where there is “imminent harm,” as a former Facebook executive recently said on CNBC.

Mind you, worse stuff has happen to other world leaders, where Twitter has taken down specific tweets.

In response to Twitter’s decision on Trump, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reinstated his mission to stay on the sidelines. Social media/internet platforms “shouldn’t be arbiters of truth.” Previously, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, had said the same thing.

Two years ago, Twitter permanently removed Alex Jones and his InfoWars platform. Dorsey said at the time: “We don't consider political viewpoints, perspectives, or party affiliation in any of our policies or enforcement decisions. Period. Impartiality is our guiding principle."

He added Jones' content and videos  “violate our abusive behavior policy.” Could Twitter have made the same statement about Trump?

It isn’t just social-media spin. All this stuff still gets covered on TV -- a huge chunk of Trump tweets, reactions from major political leaders, as well as other analysis. It provides Trump with plenty of extra earned media value.

Some TV networks have moved, in part, to cut back on Trump's press conferences for a number of reasons -- including actual news value and veracity of the information disseminated.

One might say TV networks could get hurt by covering less of the sensational, outlandish news content.

At the same time, if Trump truly wants to stop Twitter from operating, what will that do his messaging and the spin — especially with an election in November and the potential for fewer live Presidential events.

It isn’t just a case of biting the hand that feeds, but noshing on your own paw.

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