How contradictory and involuntarily funny Donald Trump always acts can be seen in his current argument with Twitter. The US President released two tweets this week that are typical of him: strong opinion, no evidence. He claimed that postal elections led to more fraud. According to research, they do not. Surprisingly, he couldn't get away with it this time. Twitter, which was previously known for simply leaving Trump's statements uncommented, responded and faded in a hint of the fact under the misleading tweet.
Actually a long overdue campaign, after all the US President has now only been set to the standard by which other users have had to be measured for a long time. But Trump, who is not exactly known for his level-headed attitude anyway, did not like that, of course. He promptly complained and threatened not only with more regulation, but with the closure of all social networks. And where did he do it? On Twitter, of course, the network that he would most like to shut down.
Little Donald would like to continue rumbling on Twitter
Now Trump threatens and grumbles a lot when the day is long. But on Thursday, the US president made serious of his threat: he signed an executive order to regulate social networks. Free speech on the Internet is essential to maintain democracy, it says. The platforms would have "dangerous power" if they could censor opinions that they did not like. A change in law should make platforms responsible for their content. That would mean that, like the media, they would have to check what content was shared. Authorities should check whether the networks treat users fairly.
Apart from the fact that Trump probably wants to protect free speech less than he wants to continue to rumble freely on Twitter: With his order he overshoots the goal of guaranteeing free speech. As logical as it may be to make platforms more responsible for their actions: If Twitter, Facebook and other social networks such as media were responsible for what people publish, it would bring them even more power. A similar problem with which the German Network Enforcement Act is also struggling. And a contradiction that the American President has overlooked.
Because his executive order would de facto mean that even he himself could no longer tweet unhindered what is shooting into his head. If it were problematic, the platforms would have to take it down - otherwise they would make themselves punishable. Fortunately, lawyers don't believe his order will get through in court anyway, as they have previously been on the platforms' side. In addition, Trump would have to get his order through the House of Representatives - and that is in the hands of the Democrats.
So far, the platforms have happily wriggled out with reference to free speech. Yes, exactly with the argument that Trump is now using to regulate them more. Twitter boss Jack Dorsey said two years ago that employees shouldn't intervene in the content of others - an opinion that he has apparently changed in the meantime. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg also likes to emphasize that free speech is a valuable asset that should not be restricted. On the dispute between Twitter and Trump, he said with the sentence: "I firmly believe that Facebook should not be the referee about the truth in everything that people say online." What could also be translated with: We do not want to intervene in the content.
You are always intervening
In recent years, social networks may have been better able to meet their responsibilities. However, this did not happen entirely voluntarily: political pressure has increased, particularly in the European Union and the United States. The platforms are now moderating content more intensively, deleting problematic accounts, have done fact checkers and even set up external bodies - probably also to avoid stricter regulation. But none of this can hide the fact that in the first instance it is still the platforms that decide which content is critical and which is not. On the other hand, users hardly have a handle. The executive order may not be the right solution to break up this power. But we should definitely limit the power of social networks. If only to really deal with racist, sexist, insulting or simply wrong contributions. Those like President Trump's.