By | Rachel Brooks
January 11, 2021
Above, image Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic is of CNN, a heavily left-leaning American cable news outlet that has drawn criticism for its political news coverage in recent history. News and information wars in the United States now reach a boiling point.
On January 11, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel questioned Twitter’s “problematic” ban of the U.S. President Donald Trump, citing the Chancellor’s spokesperson.
Tech giants, including Twitter, Facebook, and many of their subsidiaries, collectively banned Donald Trump due to his “incitement of violence” of the Capitol Hill riots that took place on January 6. In the wake of these events, tech giants such as Amazon and Apple have likewise delisted and aborted from their systems Twitter competitors, such as Parler, who provided an outlet for right-wing political discussion.
The German Chancellor noted that it was “problematic” that a tech company based in San Francisco would dictate who was allowed to practice free speech. This is problematic for the multiple national representations present on the platform.
In the wake of banning Trump from its platform, the Twitter company was faced with a great loss. The ban rattled confidence globally in the platform. If the U.S. President was not exempt from expulsion, then no one is exempt. Early on Monday, Twitter stock shares took “a nosedive.” Investors cited the ban of Trump and the expulsion of other right-wing political voices as a potential “drag in user growth” going into 2021, citing the finance column of Variety magazine. MSN News cited a 7% drop in Twitter shares after the Trump ban. At one point in early Monday trading, the Twitter stock dipped to $45.15 dollars per share, citing MSN.
Likewise, as Twitter stocks took a hit, the Parler app rose to No. 1 on January 9, in the app store after the Trump ban. This sudden performance spike was linked directly to the Trump ban on Twitter, as reported by The Wrap. Now, with the competitor of Twitter at risk of permanent collapse as Amazon, Apple, and various others de-platformed the app, questions exist over what permanent damage this will have on the tech giants. As world leaders join the chorus of voices who find the selective platforming of Twitter to be less desirable, many question the rights tech giants have to eliminate competition entirely.
At the same time, with its sudden spike in growth, Parler is suing Amazon for its sudden de-platforming of its service. This was reported by Business Insider on January 11. Parler cites antitrust laws in its legal pursuit of Amazon. The court document was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle on Monday.
“NATURE OF THE ACTION 1.
This is a civil action for injunctive relief, including a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunctive relief, and damages. Last Month, Defendant Amazon Web Services, Inc. (“AWS”) and the popular social media platform Twitter signed a multi-year deal so that AWS could support the daily delivery of millions of tweets.
AWS currently provides that same service to Parler, a conservative microblogging alternative and competitor to Twitter.
When Twitter announced two evenings ago that it was permanently banning President Trump from its platform, conservative users began to flee Twitter en masse for Parler. The exodus was so large that the next day, yesterday, Parler became the number one free app downloaded from Apple’s App Store.
Yet last evening, AWS announced that it would suspend Parler’s account effective Sunday, January 10th, at 11:59 PM PST. And it stated the reason for the suspension was that AWS was not confident Parler could properly police its platform regarding content that encourages or incites violence against others. However, Friday night one of the top trending tweets on Twitter was “Hang Mike Pence.” But AWS has no plans nor has it made any threats to suspend Twitter’s account,” the lawsuit began.
Parler cited the dictation by Amazon that its platform could not be screened for hate speech, while fellow Amazon-partner Twitter had tolerated trending calls to dispatch Vice President Pence, as its motion to eliminate competition. Parler’s executives then cited the Sherman Antitrust Act in its lawsuit:
“Thus, AWS is violating Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act in combination with Defendant Twitter. AWS is also breaching its contract with Parler, which requires AWS to provide Parler with a thirty-day notice before terminating service, rather than the less than thirty-hour notice AWS actually provided. Finally, AWS is committing intentional interference with prospective economic advantage given the millions of users expected to sign up in the near future.
This emergency suit seeks a Temporary Restraining Order against Defendant Amazon Web Services to prevent it from shutting down Parler’s account at the end of today. Doing so is the equivalent of pulling the plug on a hospital patient on life support. It will kill Parler’s business—at the very time it is set to skyrocket.”
In addition to Parler, the smaller similar micro-blogging site Gab has gained 10,000 users per hour. As Parler was de-platformed, Gab’s social platform reported a growth of 600,000 users, who flocked to the site because of the sudden vacuum of Parler and the general mistrust of Twitter.
Gab was described by Newsweek as a “fringe site” that was “known to attract white nationalists” in another mainstream media report that highlighted the extreme escalation of American information conflict. Gab is highly similar to both Twitter and Parler. Rather than a trending column, as Twitter has, Gab posts a sidebar to the right-hand side of the screen that lists alternative news reports, as well as those from the mainstream press.
Questions arise over whether the platform’s hiccup in trade performance is a fluke of the civil unrest surrounding the Trump controversy, or if it is a permanent degradation of the platform. While some political commentators, such as Dan Bongino, who is likewise an investor in the site, state that they anticipate Parler to be back online “before the end of the week,” there is permanent damage to the public image of companies such as Twitter in place. Not only are users fearful they will not be allowed to freely use the platform for fear of political censure, but also now users fear they will not be able to seek an alternative.
Likewise, the competitor site Parler may be down longer than expected, citing the CEO John Matze.
MSN likewise notes a rallying of opposing news outlets as information warfare in the United States reaches an all-time high. Mainstream media outlets, such as CNN, MSN, Bloomberg, and more, have used their platforms to obtain letters and to publish the internal-business issues of conservative media outlets such as Cumulus Radio. Cumulus Radio was reported to have asked its guests to “dial back” on political commentary surrounding the questions of election integrity, and the “election fraud rhetoric” of recent days.
Now, as Chancellor Merkel questions the propriety of the Twitter-ban, the future for Twitter’s growth outside of the United States stands in question. The German economy, based on GDP ranking, is the largest economy in Europe, with GDP rankings of 3.4 trillion Euros as of 2019. 2020’s numbers were not cited here as normal GDP and production were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic effects on business. With the chancellor of Europe’s highest-grossing economy expressing a lack of confidence in American tech giants, the rest of Europe and similar investors are paying attention. This may impact their continued use of the platform, as well as continued European investment in the platform.
As foreign growth is threatened, the domestic decline is promised. On Monday, the Independent UK reported that the FBI has warned of a “civil uprising” if U.S. Speaker of the House Pelosi and her party vote to impeach Trump and remove him prematurely from office. This comes as the MAGA movement reportedly targets the Twitter HQ building in San Francisco. Local CBS reported that the MAGA protest at Twitter HQ appeared to be “ a bust” as police investigated to see if the demonstration would turn violent. Only a small turnout of protesters appeared at the Twitter HQ, perhaps dissuaded by the events of January 6 in Washington D.C.
Likewise, an internal lack of confidence in the systems emerged from such as the American Civil Liberties Union, or the ACLU, which was concerned with “unchecked power” after the Facebook, Twitter ban of Donald Trump. This statement was made by Kate Ruane, legislative counsel of the ACLU, who stated that the decision to ban Donald Trump could set a precedent for further bans and “the silencing of less privileged voices.” Ruane’s comments show a sudden consensus of opinion between the right and left-leaning groups that Twitter’s actions were a violation of the collective American confidence in free speech. Ruane’s statement was reported by Newsweek.
Many leaders joined this chorus of shattered confidence, including Senator Lindsey Graham, who noted that Twitter was making a massive mistake by banning Trump while allowing the Ayatollah of Iran to continue to have a frequently-used platform.
American citizens also cited mixed signaling from the Biden inauguration committee, as the theme of the 46th president’s inauguration was announced as “America United.” Biden plans to join with the Clintons, Bushes, and Obamas in laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery shortly after his inauguration. The American public cited the actions of Biden and of his party as divisive, with the dismissal of conservative opinions, the targeting of conservative platforms, pejoratives used for right-wing leaning citizens, and so forth. Biden will be expected to be held to grueling scrutiny by the American public for his conduct toward the public in the wake of his immediate and controversial predecessor.
In the meantime, the Boston Globe reports that the House Democrats have moved to introduce articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, whose presidency would expire on January 20. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, states that a trial would not be possible until January 19.
The Democrats are deadset to bring their impeachment proceedings forward despite the fact that Trump’s presidency could end before they could meet. The resolution has received backing by 210 Democrats and has accused Trump of “high crimes” and “the incitement of insurrection” as was reported by CBS News. This came after the House Republicans blocked a motion to use the 25th Amendment in which Mike Pence would temporarily assume the duties of the presidency.
In the afternoon of January 11, the State Department’s website likewise posted a page that appeared to announce Donald Trump’s term would end at 19:40:07 on the night of January 11. The page was affixed to a post published on January 20, 2017. Buzzfeed correspondent Christopher Miller shared his correspondence with the State Department, and stated that a disgruntled social media staff employee at the State Department was responsible for the page edit, and that Trump has not officially resigned from the post.
The FBI issued statements warning of “storming of courthouses,” if Trump was forcibly removed. This was reported by CBS News rolling updates at approximately 3:10pm EST.
As the social tech giants, and the press, continued their push against all right-wing outlets following the Capitol Hill protests, Lindsey Graham vowed to push back against existing protections for big tech. Graham stated via Twitter that he was “more determined than ever” to roll back the liability protections big tech giant such as Twitter enjoy under Section 230.