Donald Trump is all about social media. His campaign manager claims that he used Facebook to win the presidency and now he uses Twitter to communicate—even when he wants to fire someone. But lately, the president has been stoking the politics of resentment by complaining that conservatives are being treated unfairly on social media.
Twitter “SHADOW BANNING” prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
As a result, the White House announced a new initiative on Wednesday.
The Trump Administration is fighting for free speech online.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 15, 2019
The first screen that pops up when you click on the link reads: “SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear ‘violations’ of user policies. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump.”
In order to tell Trump your story, you have to provide your name, age, ZIP code, phone number and citizenship status. You also have to agree to the conditions of the user agreement, which allows them to use your data in any way “in perpetuity, throughout the world, and in all forms of media.” Finally, those submitting their stories must agree that the government can edit submissions.
You see where this is going, don’t you?
The thing about the Trump Facebook bias survey is it’s just going to be used to assemble a voter file, which Trump will then pay Facebook millions of dollars to target with ads about how biased Facebook is.
— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) May 15, 2019
Max Read nailed it when he called this “the apotheosis of Trumpism.” First and foremost, that’s because the bias survey is nothing more than a typical Trump con job.
[N]one of the people who submit grievances to the form will have their accounts restored or content promoted. They won’t get explanations for why social media isn’t working the way they think it should, and they almost certainly won’t get satisfying regulation out of their complaints. Instead, they’ll be advertised to about Trump — and whatever else the Trump campaign uses the list for — for the rest of their digital lives, on the very platforms they feel completely alienated from.
But it’s also peak Trumpism because it plays on the politics of resentment and grievance that have always been the root of the president’s support. In this instance, it is social media companies—obviously controlled by liberals—that are plotting against his faithful followers
Finally, this whole effort provides cover for far-right extremism. Republicans aren’t being targeted on social media. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are going after neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate-mongerers. Trump’s claims provide those groups with victim status and a cloak of legitimacy, ignoring how they often use social media as an organizing tool.
So Trump is running a con that plays into the politics of resentment and provides cover for far-right extremism. That pretty much describes the president in a nutshell.