Social Media Suspensions Galore

CBJ – It was an explosive week filled with social media companies suspending a number of influential people, the most notable of whom was U.S. President Donald Trump. Even a controversial social media site was removed from existence, at least for the time being.

While Trump’s permanent ban from Twitter and indefinite ban from Facebook took most of the headlines, Trump was also banned from other sites including Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and even PayPal.

A number of Twitter users also complained that Jack Dorsey’s company was doing a sweep of many of their followers, with some claiming a reduction of up to 80,000 followers over the course of 72 hours. A number of other people also faced suspensions to varying degrees, many of them right-wing conspiracy theorists, including QAnon supporters who until now have provided no concrete factual evidence to back up what they are saying.

There is no evidence to support the unproven notion that Twitter is knowingly removing followers based on political leanings but instead it seems as if the company has conducted a massive bot sweep – removing computer-generated accounts that are not real people. The bots are generated on computers for a variety of reasons, but the bottom line is that they are not people and negatively impact on the quality of the site. Twitter is taking action to clean up those spam-like bot accounts, many of which have had links to Russia and China in attempts at furthering political agendas online.

Trump has threatened to start up his own social media company to combat those who’ve shunned him, but make no mistake it takes a lot of time and effort to generate a substantial user base. As example, Parler, the relatively new social media site that caters largely to right-wing audiences has about 3 million users. By comparison, Facebook has 2.7 billion monthly users and Twitter has more than 330 million total users, worldwide.

Meanwhile, Google and Apple have now suspended Parler from its Play Store and App Store, respectively, saying the social networking service has not taken adequate measures to prevent the spread of posts inciting violence.

Parler CEO John Matze says Apple is banning his company’s service until it gives up free speech and institutes “broad and invasive policies like Twitter and Facebook.”

“They claim it is due to violence on the platform. The community disagrees as we hit No.1 on their store,” Matze said in a post on Parler.

No sooner had Parler and its CEO absorbed the major obstacles put forth by Google and Apple when another international tech giant Amazon made the decision to remove Parler from its web hosting services in a move that could force the site completely offline, at least temporarily, if it can’t find a new cloud-based host. The move by Amazon is by far the bigger blow. Both Google and Apple stopped carrying the app required to use the site, but those who already had the app could have continued using the site up until Amazon made the decision to kick Parler right off its infrastructure, taking it completely offline. 

Matze estimates Parler will be offline for “at least a week” while he constructs his own backend infrastructure so as not to be reliant on tier-one companies such as Amazon. Whether the complex infrastructure gets built or not, and in such a short timeframe, remains to be seen. Such an endeavour takes significant time and financial resources.