Tuesday, April 23, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He talked to the CEO of Twitter about his conspiracy theories about Twitter.

Trump met today with Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter. There are any number of reasons a president might want to talk with a tech company executive, but what Trump most wanted to talk about was his incorrect belief that Twitter was secretly and maliciously deleting followers from his famous account.

In reality, Twitter and other social media companies routinely purge spam or fraudulent accounts, some of which follow Trump's account (as well as slightly less famous ones) simply as part of their camouflage. According to a study done last October, more than 60% of Trump's 59.9 million followers are fake. (Other famous people also have high rates of fake followers: about 40% of former president Barack Obama's 106 million followers are fake.)

There is no evidence that Twitter censors accounts based on ideology—not even the foreign "bot" accounts that helped Trump get elected and are still actively propagandizing on Trump's behalf

In fact, Twitter is exploring a special rule inspired by Trump, who sometime posts material that would get deleted for inciting violence or hatred if it came from a normal user. The new policy would allow for such tweets to stay up, in order to preserve a public record, although with a note explaining how they violated Twitter's normal terms of service.

The meeting with Dorsey came right after Trump indulged in an epic Twitter bender even by his standards: 59 posts over the past two days, including one about the Twitter conspiracy theory.

Why should I care about this?

  • Past a certain point, attention-seeking can be pathological.
  • There were probably more important things than tweeting for the President of the United States to be doing over the past two days.