The removal of the president’s megaphone shows up the power and dangers of social media

If his name ever leaks out, the unnamed Twitter employee who deleted President Trump’s account for 11 minutes need never pay for a drink again. Some people have suggested (on Twitter, of course) that he be nominated for a Nobel peace prize: after all, he did quite as much for diplomacy as past winners such as Henry Kissinger. Then again, his achievement only lasted 11 minutes – not long enough to impress the Norwegian parliament, which awards the prize. There is a case that Twitter should have shut off the account already, since its own rules prohibit threatening people or promoting violence on the basis of national origin or religious affiliation, which forms the basis of Mr Trump’s appeal. In real life the president helps sell far too many advertisements for that to happen: there is a compulsive quality to watching the exploits of a choleric incompetent, whether he is Basil Fawlty or Donald Trump; but Basil Fawlty was never in charge of a nuclear arsenal. Mr Trump could not have been elected without Twitter. The new media companies, Twitter, Google, and Facebook above all, now have more power and reach than any publishers before them – and they are publishers, not neutral conduits as they pretend to be. The temporary silencing of Mr Trump shows their power just as clearly as his rise did. It is vital that they work for democracy, not demagoguery.

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