The Social Media Report #12
A look at the week's news at the intersection of social media and society
Welcome to the first 2021 edition of The Social Media Report, the publication which reviews the week’s developments in technology, digital and social media.
In this edition we take a look inside at the major news of this week, then review the headlines worth reading. This week’s biggest story in social media is perhaps the biggest story across all news right now, that of role that social media played in the storming of the U.S. Capitol, and the ensuing ban of President Donald Trump from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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The week in review
Trump banned from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram - how it happened: five are confirmed dead from the storming of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump groups, an event which the social networks deemed was incited through The President Donald Trump’s use of their platforms. Within hours, posts by Trump were removed from Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. Then Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, in that order, blocked Trump from posting on his account temporarily, which then turned into an indefinite block from Facebook and Instagram, while Twittergave Trump the keys back after 48hrs, and put him on a final warning. It wasn’t long before he tweeted, violating Twitter’s rules once again, resulting in a permanent ban. For me, the image that best captures this week’s events comes from Antonio Rodriquez.
How social media has become the arbiter of power: you will have seen what happened at the U.S. Capitol this week. Trump was not in the mob physically, but his social media activity in the run up to and during events sparked an unprecedented response from the social networks’ safety teams and their CEOs.
In a series of posts published by Trump’s team across the main social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, in addition to activity referenced by each of the networks Twitch (suspension) and TikTok (content removal), statements were used by Tump that stoked violent events. Even when given a final chance, when Twitter reinstated Trump’s account on Friday, the same social media rhetoric continued. The below, according to Twitter, was the final tweet that got Trump banned.
How Trump has used social media has in the last week, and arguably for much longer, demonstrated “attempts to stage violence” according to Facebook and he poses a “risk of further incitement of violence” according to Twitter.
What this means for world leaders and social media: never before has a world leader been banned from a social network. Brazil’s Jair Bolsarno, and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro have both had posts deleted by Twitter. But there has never been anything close to Trump. The way he has made use of social media to attempt to wield power is like nothing seen before, and like nothing we will see again. Commentator Azeem Azhar has gone so far as to say that social networks have effectively more power than the US Constitution, and in this case, I would have to agree.
Regulators, lawmakers and a digital NATO?: what has taken place this week sets many precedents. It shows the power a world leader can build through the use of social media. It shows the lengths social networks must go to police world leaders' social media activity in the future. And it paves the way for lawmakers globally to impose tighter regulations - and this will be the next battleground.
We will now see far greater proactivity from social networks in this space, and more attention from the global press on this as an issue. But we will also see world leaders taking notice, and wielding their social media profiles in ever more prolific ways in the post-Trump era. I can’t help but wonder why there isn’t some sort of digital NATO being formed to help protect public safety from events such as those we saw take place this week. Perhaps that could be one for the to do list.
My must reads from this week
On to the most interesting stories that I have been reading this week, starting with restrictions and bans imposed on President Donald Trump.
Twitter’s new power: The New York Times’ Kevin Roose muses that “The ability of a handful of people to control our public discourse has never been more obvious.”
What are Twitter’s Trump responsibilities here? 350 Twitter employees ask leadership to investigate Twitter's role leading up to the insurrection due to Donald Trump’s tweets which were permitted to be posted.
Trump advisers banned too: Twitter has also banned the accounts of Trump advisers Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn for violating its ban on “Coordinated Harmful Activity”.
Reddit bans major Trump channel: Reddit has announced that it has banned one of its largest Trump supporting subreddits, r/donaldtrump, due to repeated policy violations.
YouTube band Trump content: YouTube has said that it will restrict channels that post misinformation about the 2020 election results, including Trump's.
What about freedom of speech? Many have said to me that Trump’s ban is censorship and is against freedom of speech (and hence is bad). This article by Mike Masnick on Techdirt offers a valuable counter to that notion.
Parler removed from Apple’s App store, the Google store and Amazon’s servers: Trump’s other favourite social network, known for offering little in terms of moderation or regulation has now been removed from pretty much everywhere.
News from the social networks
Twitter acquires audio team: Twitter acquires social podcasting app Breaker which will shot down and its team will Twitter Spaces, its Clubhouse-style audio innovation.
TikTok trends of 2020: Taylor Lorenz’s picks from the last 12 months.
Reddit moves into video creation with Dubsmash acquisition: a strange one for Reddit, which moves in on TikTok territory with this deal.
35 tech execs predict their trends for 2021: thought leaders including Eric Schmidt, John Sculley and Werner Vogels look forward to the year ahead.
Inside India’s dark data economy: lax privacy rules and high consumer demand are fuelling markets such as databases about “parents, cable customers, pregnant women, pizza eaters, mutual funds investors, and almost any niche group one can imagine”.
Gojek in $18bn Tokopedia deal talks: Gojek, Indonesia’s super app, is in talks to acquire / merge with the e-commerce unicorn Tokopedia.
Media & gaming
A look at top YouTuber MrBeast’s 50-person team: “Jimmy Donaldson dropped out of college to try to solve one of the biggest mysteries in media: How exactly does a video go viral on YouTube?”
How Tencent’s Honour of Kings became the first mobile game to hit 100m daily users: currently the biggest game globally is almost double the size of Fortnite and Roblox *together*.
Global spending in games is up 30%: the always valuable Sensor Tower insights into consumer in-game spending trends.
Control your attention: a great essay in Harvard Business Review on how the things you pay attention to online and off effectively control you.
How’s Covid affecting city planning: CityLab looks at restricting cars in certain cities and how Covid has helped.
Innovations for home workers: the agnostic meeting button and communal schedulers are amongst the new tech helping remote work.
2021 social media trends briefing event: I will be delivering a presentation this Tuesday on the social media trends I think are important for the year ahead alongside colleagues. Sign up here.
The Social Media Report is written by Drew Benvie, founder & CEO of Battenhall, The Drum, CIPR and GDXA’s social media consultancy of the year 2020.
You can follow The Social Media Report on Twitter at @TheSMReport.
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