The digital apocalypse befell Donald Trump and his supporters this weekend.

Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Twitch have all decided to kick the American president out of their platform, sometimes permanently, arguing that his tweets and messages had prompted his followers to attack the le Capitol Wednesday January 6.

The tech giants' sanctions have not only targeted Donald Trump.

Many of the virtual cues used by voters for the incumbent president have also become cyber-persona non-grata.

Reddit thus got rid of its r / donaldtrump forum and the Discord chat platform closed the chat room The Donald where the most extreme "Trumpists" came to talk about making the revolution and protesting, by violence if necessary, the results of the November 3 vote.

Phew of misplaced relief?

More importantly, Parler, the alt-Twitter highly prized by the alt-right, was ousted from application stores for iPhone and Android smartphones.

Amazon has even decided to no longer allow this microblogging service, which is growing in popularity in ultra-conservative circles, to use its hosting infrastructure, condemning Parler to an inevitable digital death.

A great purge greeted with a sigh of relief in the United States.

This "toxic relationship between Trump and social networks is finally over," CNN said, Saturday, January 9.

The main downside to this spring cleaning is that it "comes a little late," noted US tech commentator Nick Bilton in Vanity Fair magazine.

“Historians will long try to understand the improvised nature of these sanctions, which come as Donald Trump's power wanes and Democrats are on the verge of taking power,” the New York Times said.

But beyond the opportunistic nature of these decisions, this lightning offensive by Gafam [for Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft] against the Trump camp raises "real questions about the moderation policy of these platforms and the real power that 'they exercise in the public debate, "underlines Konstantinos Komaitis, strategy director of the Internet Society, an American NGO promoting Internet development, contacted by France 24. 

Digital right of life and death

The closure by Twitter and Facebook of Donald Trump's accounts made him inaudible.

We can salute him, as did the New York Times, which wrote that "to spend a weekend without being inundated with the President's tweet is a real breath of fresh air".

However, it is also the most striking testimony to date of the "power of these media to accelerate or reduce the relevance of a political actor in the public sphere", notes Lena Frischlich, specialist in issues. of democratic resilience in the era of digital propaganda at the University of Münster, contacted by France 24. 

This right of life and death to the word of leaders through these social media has always existed, but it has often gone unnoticed because Facebook and Twitter like to portray themselves as champions of free speech.

They preferred to be accused of laxity rather than being accused of chief censors, notes the Silicon Republic site in a column entitled "Trump's ban is not something to celebrate". 

Now that they have cracked down on a personality as important as Donald Trump, it becomes impossible "to ignore the power of influence that the Gafams have acquired over political life," said Frans Imbert-Vier, CEO of UBCOM, a firm Swiss specialist in the protection of digital secrecy, contacted by France 24. Because this act of censorship is unilateral and without possibility of appeal.

This is the crux of the problem for Frans Imbert-Vier: "It is up to a judge to decide who has the right to speak and who must be silent according to the laws that exist, and if Twitter and Facebook had waited a judicial decision to act, that would have posed no problem. But there, it completely upsets the democratic system because these platforms arrogate to themselves a prerogative of the sovereign power - to limit freedom of expression - without being subjected to any control " .

Of course, they do it in their personal garden.

In theory, these social networks are services that belong to private entities, free to set their rules of moderation.

This is why, according to Konstantinos Komaitis of the Internet Society, Amazon's decision to cut off the power to Parler is even more open to criticism because "Amazon's role, in this case, was to provide a service. hosting, which should have nothing to do with moderation of content.

But even in the case of social media, it becomes increasingly difficult to defend the right of these platforms to police them alone when so many posts written there by politicians have an impact in real life.

"The virtual has joined the real in the political domain", summarizes Lena Frischlich, the German researcher from the University of Münster. 

Politicians "reaped what they sowed"

"For once, politicians are reaping what they sowed," says Frans Imbert-Vier.

For this expert, the Americans "let these organizations grow in the 2000s, which are now beyond their control, because the politicians considered that they were perfect tools to amplify their message and that it was therefore important not to them. regulate".

And "when they realized, during the Arab Spring, that these propaganda weapons could also be turned against the leaders, it was too late to go back", estimates Frans Imbert-Vier.

He adds that these platforms had become too influential globally, and the political risk of attacking them was too great for most politicians.

Sometimes, as in the case of Donald Trump, these platforms will make decisions that satisfy the greatest number.

"But what if one day they decide to censor a less controversial politician?" Asks the Russian opponent Alexeï Navlany on Twitter.

Very critical of the decision to expel the American president from social networks, he judges that "this precedent will have a profound impact, because it will be exploited by the enemies of freedom of expression all over the world. Whenever one of them, like in Russia, wants to silence someone, it will suffice for him to say 'it's trivial, Twitter did it well with Donald Trump' ".

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