What the Trump vs Twitter row REALLY means
Spoiler: it means we are ALL dumb, but not for the reason you think.
I just discovered that Donald Trump threatens to ‘close’ down social media platforms after Twitter fact checks claims on mail-in voting fraud.
I haven’t read the article, and right now I have no real intention, or need, to read it. I have a paper deadline next week, and the post lockdown situation here in Italy still taking too much of my mind, as you can see yourself. But the title as it is, or more exactly the bare, essential fact it is about, is enough to make me upset.
Upset, and embarrassed for the cluelessness of our species.
Without even reading the article, I agree that that story is big, serious news. Much of what happens, or comes from, the White House still reverberates enough outside US borders to impact the rest of the world. And sure, the underlying issue behind these news is objectively serious.
But that is now why I am upset, and embarrassed. This Trump-Twitter row is also an excellent proof (the millionth one, of course) of how and why centralized social networks are a really dumb idea.
Until enough people see the light and RETURN to get their news from RSS feeds, I heavily depend on Twitter, Facebook and to lesser extent LinkedIn to put food on the table, especially now that COVID19 has practically canceled conferences. I need to know what people from tens of countries all around the world are doing, and I need them to know what I am doing.
Forget Trump, please. And Twitter, too
So, forget Trump, what he says and its truthfulness or lack thereof, for a moment, and just look at these two charts:
I am a non-US citizen, living more than 7000 kms away from Trump, and more than 10000 kms from Twitter headquarters:
What that title also, no mainly says to me is: “I risk to lose a communication channel that I need to pay my bills… because the head of ONE and FOREIGN country, not mine, about a quarter planet away, is mad at ONE private company of that same, far away foreign country, over a domestic issue”.
If this doesn’t sound stupid enough as it is, please compare it to email, or even POTS (Plain Old Telephony Service):
If Trump decided to shut down Gmail, or the Pacific Bell branch of AT&T over a similar issue, I could still email or phone my aunt on the other side of Rome, or some colleague in Australia. And so could you, wherever you live, at least with email.
But we consider networks like Twitter “innovation”, and “high, more advanced tech than email or telephony. DUH.
Where art thou, Europe?
Regardless of who is right or wrong in this specific case, I and millions of other people worldwide should be free to ignore which domestic companies a US president personally dislikes.
So, seen from here, that “Trump-vs-Twitter” match could and should have this executive summary:
Putting together a viable, non-centralized alternative to tech farces like this really is one of the first things that EU should do after sorting out the COVID19 mess. Or maybe one of the first, considering how essential communications are during lockdowns, and other periods of reduced mobility.
PS: My own proposal for patching the sorry general state of things that makes risks like these possible is always here, and further explained in this series of posts. If you like that, or the rest of my work, you may support them in several ways.