Big Brother? More Like Big Bird

Growing up I was overly dramatic.  I have now matured ever so gracefully to be ~tastefully~ dramatic.  College has really leveled me and made me deal with situations in a MUCH more civil and cultivated way.  Situations where I used to throw tantrums,  I now just throw  a “whatever lol” or “It’s fine”. Nothing says being an adult like some classic passive aggression!

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I was recently reminded of this transformation when I heard the news about the, now ex, twitter employee deleting Donald Trump’s twitter.  Many of you have probably already heard and read about this, but for those who have not here is a (very brief) recap: On a twitter employee’s last day at the company he/she decided to go out with a bang and delete the twitter account belonging to the President of the United States.  For a whole eleven minutes @realdonaldtrump did not exist. Now, although this may seem like a harmless joke or even a blessing, this action did not have the consequence that this ex-employee hoped.

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This whole debacle reminded me of a traumatic incident I had when I was a kid.  When I was little I used to love to watch my sisters get in trouble.  There was nothing that made me happier than watching my younger sister get in trouble for hitting me and in return having to do my chores.  Due to this sort of strong sisterly love I often pulled stunts in order to get her in trouble.  For example, I one time ratted out my sister for sneaking candy into her bedroom.  At the time I thought there were only two possible outcomes of telling my parents this:

  1. My little sister gets her candy taken away (and it is then given to me)
  2. My sister keeps her candy but has to now take out the trash.

At the time there seemed to be only positives, but this dream was quickly shut down.  Much to my chagrin, my mom did not yell at my sister, but in order to ensure no one was eating in their room she hid all of the candy.  My mom did not really act upon the small action of eating a Reeses in bed, but she reacted to the larger issue of how easy it was for us kids to break the rules with the current situation.  The reason I brought up this prolonged childhood anecdote is because I feel that the deletion of Trump’s twitter had this same effect.  People were not up in arms about the president not having a twitter for 11 minutes, but what they were really worried about was how easy it was for someone to delete it.  As the president of the most powerful country in the world, you would expect the highest amount of security on every physical and social aspect in his life.  The fact that a departing employee could take away one of the president’s social platform so easily is quite eye opening.

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These series of events beg the questions: Do the executives at Facebook, Twitter, etc. have too much power? Is there a way to run these social platforms in a safer way?  Should these social networks have the power and ability to erase someone from their site?

After reading numerous articles on the situation I was able to form my own opinions regarding the issue.  First, I think that there have been some slight overreactions.  I can see where the worry people have is coming from, but I see no malicious motive in the action.  To be completely honest, I am surprised it took this long for someone to mess with Donald Trump’s twitter.   I think that the fact it took this long  is an ode to how secure the system/twitter actually is.  With human involvement there is no way to be 100% anything.  Meaning there is no way to eradicate every threat, prank, or misconduct.

An article from the New York Times talked about restructuring Twitter’s headquarters by limiting the amount of people that have the access and capability to delete someone’s Twitter.  In this article they even suggest to only grant such power to government officials.  It was at this point of the article that Professor Chang’s legal speech popped in my head.  Giving the government sole power to control a social platform, I believe, goes against our first amendment rights.  The moment we give the government that much power is the moment George Orwell’s 1984 rains true.

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In much contrast to usual occurrence this incident did not result in an uproar for or against Donald Trump, yet it sparked fear.  No matter what article you read there is always a tinge of horror surrounding social platforms.  In today’s world everyone is able to reach thousands, if not millions of people, at just the touch of their fingertips.  Knowing that there is a group of people out there that have the power to take that away is quite frightening.  Social media is a fairly new concept that many do not completely understand.  If anything I think this incident sparked curiosity and talk around what we, as a society, expect from these social platforms and who runs them.

8 comments

  1. chloeshepard18 · · Reply

    I find this whole event so interesting. I never considered how much power those who run social media sites have but clearly it’s a lot. However, I don’t think that they can do too much harm. Social media sites thrive off of network effects and need users to generate content. If they start to delete accounts or posts, people will just leave the site and find a new one, thus putting an end to the company.

  2. britt_hopkins4 · · Reply

    You make a really strong point. This reminds me of @andrewmanginelli‘s video that he tweeted last week in regard to the couple who thought their phone was listening to them. This is crazy big brother. I feel like there should be more regulations in order so that someone at Twitter can’t just delete an account. There should be something similar to a checks and balances where the request for deletion goes through a series of people that must approve it. It would be interesting to do a test to see what would happen if more had access to delete others from social media. Would it make people behave? Would it cause WWIII? I just wonder where the limits and laws are.

  3. Your blog post asked a really interesting question and topic that is up for debate. As we have seen throughout the assigned material for this course, Twitter and other social media platforms give a voice to the voiceless, which is the foundation of democracy, however, sometimes it backfires, i.e. Justine Sacco. Twitter is a platform is constantly being utilized in different ways, both good and bad, and with so much power it should be chosen wisely who has the authority to allow or restrict access.

  4. Really interesting post. The deletion of Donald Trump’s Twitter account has definitely brought up an important topic of conversation: the power behind the employees at social media companies. After reading this post, I cannot help but wonder: similar to how Russia was able to influence the elections, I question how much employees are able to influence what becomes a major point of conversation in the media, and how they most importantly, influence how news is perceived. In a recent study by the PEW Research Center, it was found that 2/3 of Americans get some (if not all) of their news from social media. If employees have the ability to influence the conversation, how are our own opinions impacted? Through this experience alone, we can see how much power employees and executives have, so I have no doubt that they also may be swaying the conversation and headlines as well. Like everyone has mentioned, this really brings up the conversation of how much power is too much? Also, what is going on behind the office closed doors that we don’t know?

  5. kaitlinardiff · · Reply

    Really great insight! It’s scary to think that a singular person had the power to wipe and it makes it seem like a no-brainer that individuals/organizations have been able to hack social media accounts so easily. This reminds me too often of how Google got in trouble in Europe for making certain items appear on the Shopping page and how Facebook got in trouble for their News ranking algorithm. If these companies can all filter what we see and control accounts, they can easily shape our perception of the world. CNN just came out with a new online subscription service for news, and if they try to tailor articles that you’re interested in then you may get skewed articles. As different social media platforms gain more traction, it’ll be interesting to see who controls what we do next.

  6. Nice post. I think the point, however, is the opposite. It’s not whether Twitter has too much power, it’s “why does Trump rely on a platform that has so much control over him.” I actually suggested that twitter should have kicked him off during the campaign, just to demonstrate how valuable it had become. 11 minutes this week, an employee showed just that.

  7. cgoettelman23 · · Reply

    This was a very insightful blog post, and I like how you tied a national headlining event to your own personal life and how you view consequences. I agree with you that this incident absolutely sparked curiosity in social media users. Exactly how much control do these companies have over our accounts? Even the President is untouchable. As we always discuss in class, our level of trust as a society has increased, almost to the point where we are too trusting, or even careless, with our information and data. Social media has immense power, but so do the people controlling the platforms.

  8. I think the issue in a vacuum is something we can all laugh about. ‘Oh someone deleted his account for 11min’ like some prank. But instead it provides insight of what we need from our leaders, be it in government, commerce, schools, etc. We need people in place that will not act foolishly or like a child because they have certain motives. I think that it is very telling that they employee did in on their last day. If they didn’t think anything was wrong with it then they would have done it before they knew they were leaving twitter.

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