Science & Tech

Donald Trump’s complicated relationship with social media – a timeline

Donald Trump’s complicated relationship with social media – a timeline
AFP via Getty Images

Donald Trump has launched a new “communications” website, which is essentially a glorified blog.

The site, billed “From the Desk of Donald J Trump”, features a series of Trump statements resembling blogposts.

Mr Trump was banned by Twitter and suspended by Facebook and YouTube after the Capitol riots in January. The former president has since been releasing statements by press release, which the new website will now host.

Users will be able to like posts and also share them on Twitter and Facebook, but there is no option for them to reply.

It comes a day before a decision is due from Facebook’s Oversight Board on whether to permanently ban Trump.

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Commentators have been waiting to see whether Trump would launch a new social media platform since he was banned from the main sites.

Jason Miller, a former spokesperson for the Trump 2020 campaign, suggested in March that the former US President would re-enter social media by creating a new platform that would “completely redefine the game”.

“Everybody is going to be waiting and watching to see what President Trump does, but it will be his own platform”, he stated via Fox News.

So, after the news of the new website broke, people were quick to point out that the site was more like a blog than a new social media platform – and all a bit of a damp squib.

However, Mr Miller later tweeted that the website was not the social media platform he had previously hyped. “We’ll have additional information coming on that front in the very near future,” he said.

So, can we still expect Trump to launch a new social media platform? And what can we learn from Trump’s past conduct that may inform the way he behaves as he tries to make a name for himself in Big Tech? Here are some pivotal moments from Trump’s past that might set the scene.

Trump’s digital exile

The first social media network to take action against Trump’s conduct was Twitter, who concluded he had used their platform to incite violence in the build up to the Capitol riots. What started as a 12 hour cooling period became a permanent fixture, with numerous others following suit. No leading platform has entertained his presence since - even moodboard site Pinterest remains defiant.

The sites included: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, as well as platforms Trump didn’t actively use such as Twitch, TikTok and Reddit.

“We believe our decision was necessary and right,” said Facebook VP Nick Clegg (yes, that Nick Clegg) at the time.

“Given its significance, we think it is important for the board to review it and reach an independent judgment on whether it should be upheld”.

A few months after he was booted off Facebook, the platform went one further when it said it would ban anything that was “in the voice of Donald Trump”. The comment was sparked by an interview with the former president, published on his daughter-in-law Lara Trump’s page, from her podcast The Right View With Lara Trump.

It was pulled from Facebook and later removed by Instagram.

Naturally, Lara wasn’t pleased with the removal and took to her Instagram to say, “And just like that, we are one step closer to Orwell’s 1984. Wow.”

A platform created on his own terms with his own money would certainly circumvent these obstacles.

Facebook’s Oversight Board are due to decide on Wednesday whether to permanently ban Trump.

The overwhelming influence of Twitter

From repeatedly using the platform to call Covid-19 the “China virus” to bragging about nuclear codes, Trump has abused his POTUS powers on Twitter more times than we can fathom.

Some of his lowest points include his hot takes on climate change and race relations in the wake of Black Lives Matter, which we can’t show you because they have been deleted forever.

Twitter began tightening controls by placing accuracy warnings on much of Trump’s content amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Some argued this was too little too late - he tweeted over 25,000 times throughout his entire presidency, and much of this had already taken place.

Several failed Tiktok bans

Trump decided in the throes of exploding Covid-19 fatalities that he was going to re-orient his priorities elsewhere by going after TikTok. In August 2020 he ordered for the app’s Chinese owners ByteDance to sell on to Microsoft within a 45 day period or be banned from app stores across America.

He believed the app was using data “to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States”. ByteDance have consistently refuted this and insisted the app’s data is actually stored in the US. Persistent attempts to block the app from the US failed, and were no longer in the former President’s power once he lost to Joe Biden.

For now, it stays a joke every time the app’s discourse goes a little...astray.

What could the new platform look like?

It’s hard to gauge, given the limited data we have been presented with. One thing’s for certain – you’ll see a rip roaring emphasis on free speech at every available avenue as his followers no doubt flock to a platform where their controversial views won’t be challenged.

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