Donald Trump (USA president) and Jack Dorsey (Twitter CEO) are antagonists on the issues of Twitter’s tagging Trump posts with the suggestion to check the facts and the USA president’s threat to forbid such through an executive order guiding the FCC. Fig. 1 shows what ignited the action.
Trump tweeted on May 28 at 01:36:55 “Big Tech is doing everything in their very considerable power to CENSOR in advance of the 2020 Election. If that happens we no longer have our freedom. I will never let it happen! They tried hard in 2016 and lost. Now they are going absolutely CRAZY. Stay Tuned!!!” On May 29 this was retweeted 46,662 times. Later (12:37:57) Trump tweeted: This will be a Big Day for Social Media and FAIRNESS! which scored 65,119 retweets.
Dorsey is reported to have responded “that the fact-checking links were meant to help users “connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves and that Twitter will continue to provide them.”
By 21:09:09 Trump tweets a linkt to a clip of his presentation of the executive order that conditionally empowers the FCC to prevent censorship by social media companies. This incites FCC commissioner Rosenworcel to immediately publish the statement that the FCC must not to be turned into the president’s speech police and that the first amendment needs be taken serious.
We can expect a chain of brawls in the slipstream: the interests involved are major and the positions couldn’t be further apart. One party’s freedom of expression is the other’s censureship, and this works both ways. The question remains open: do the antagonists (Trump and Dorsey) have first-amendment defences against the action(s) by the other? If so, in what role(s) ? What are the interests their institutions do or are meant to instantiate?
It may be a good idea to get a basic feeling about how deeply the institutions that Trump and Dorsey represent depend on each other. I take May 28, 2020 as a day in the life of both, Twitter and the president of the USA.
Twitter thrives with the amount of traffic it handles. The President has an account (realDonaldTrump) that generated 36 tweets on May 28. These tweets generated half a day later up to 686,499 retweets. A substantial amount of traffic and thus: a substantial interest to Twitter.
The Presidency thrives with effective interaction with its subjects. A popular Twitter account with its interactive possibilities supports a substantial amount of interaction and thus: a substantial interest to the Presidency.
The amount of interaction that was generated on May 28 can be categorized with content. Referring to the tweets by number of appearence I see the following clusters:
- 10 tweets on USDOT contributions to states: subsidy announcements for infrastructure (20-29)
- 8 tweets related to the Twitter brawl (1, 2, 12, 17, 30-33)
- 7 tweets of selfpromotion (3, 4, 11, 15, 18, 19)
- 6 tweets patronizing democrats & China (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14)
- 2 tweets on the persisting Minneapolis rebellion against the treatment of George Floyd
- 1 tweet on the corona pandemic, on passing the 100.000 victims milestone (there was another one calling the pandemic an unwelcome present from China, I categorized it to belong elsewhere)
Anyway, what is at stake here? The question still does not look like a nobrainer. So let me think some more …