Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Trump’s Executive Order Is About Facebook, Not Twitter

Zeynep Tufekci, the Atlantic:

In reality, Trump’s salvo on social-media companies has primarily an audience of one: Mark Zuckerberg. And it is already working. After the executive order was issued, Facebook’s CEO quickly gave an interview to Fox News in which he said, “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.” He added, “Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”

It’s important to pay attention to what the president is doing, but not because the legal details of this order matter at all. Trump is unlikely to repeal Section 230 or take any real action to curb the power of the major social-media companies. Instead, he wants to keep things just the way they are and make sure that the red-carpet treatment he has received so far, especially at Facebook, continues without impediment. He definitely does not want substantial changes going into the 2020 election. The secondary aim is to rile up his base against yet another alleged enemy: this time Silicon Valley, because there needs to be an endless list of targets in the midst of multiple failures.

It would not benefit the Trump campaign if Facebook’s management grew a spine, as Twitter’s management apparently did, and began to more closely scrutinize Trump’s posts. In turn, that would be pretty bad for Facebook’s ad revenue. Conversely, keeping the 2020 campaign similar to the one from four years ago would be highly beneficial to such a shameless, untrustworthy company — in the intervening years, Facebook’s value has doubled. Facebook has every reason to maintain the status quo, and its poor trust with the public means it has very little to lose.