We’ve always held the view that whoever is the president of the United States is considered the most powerful on the planet, right?
Well, not anymore.
What critics of US President Donald Trump could only pay lip service to, corporate social media giant Twitter did so with a flourish — impeach and silence the bullying spirit behind the not-so-palatable opposition nicknames, never mind if it’s only within its private sovereign realm.
Twitter did it in in less than one-tenth of the time it would likely have taken the whole US democratic apparatus to deliver the same result. And it did so with none of the transparency America’s democratic apparatus owes its participants.
By permanently suspending the account of no less than the most revered man in the world over the weekend, Twitter, by consequence, has become more powerful than the US government itself and disturbingly more powerful than America’s enemies.
See the logic?
Given that Twitter is a private enterprise and its network and infrastructure private property, it follows that it has all the right to allow or deny anyone access to its platform. It has become more powerful than the American government for the simple reason that its netizens have no alternative place to go.
As an armchair pundit correctly observed, Twitter enjoys the scale and the benefit of massive network ubiquity to render most alternatives effectively inconsequential. That fact alone, he says, has for some time been the basis for antitrust rumblings in various quarters.
By this reckoning, can we now say that we must have created Frankenstein’s monster out of these erstwhile little websites where people initially only shared stuff and engaged in social networking?
After eventually getting to be called “platforms,” the stage has been set for Twitter and its siblings — Facebook, Apple and Google — to extend their reach and penetration into mainstream society that people have begun thinking that they actually were the Internet itself.
With their continued growth, they have become indispensable tools to humanity, an essential part of life as the public services that conventional governments guarantee. As such, they have gained the same power and well-being once associated only with national governments.
The way we see it, even if an alternative platform emerges that refuses to conform to today’s Facebook-Apple-Google-Twitter quadrumvirate and succeed as a realistic alternative, who’s to say that this alternative would not one day behave the way Twitter does today?
For that matter, our pundit asks, what if new social media networks hosted in other countries — notably “non-democratic” ones — emerge and host a chatter deemed unacceptable to the “civil societies” of the West? Will Western countries start to put up their own versions of China’s Great Firewall to keep all that out?
In the specific case of Trump, we could very well say that the controversial president’s audience is a given. And it took just one swipe for a social media giant like Twitter to banish him and highlight a long unfolding failure of America’s elite to win them over despite the backing he gets from mainstream media.
If only for this, we should start taking a long, hard look at what we, as netizens, have unwittingly created.
It’s a scary realm indeed.