When Trump Becomes One of Us on Social Media

In some ways, the perks of being a world leader extend to social media pages. When Joe Biden is inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021, Donald Trump will lose his special status as a world leader on Twitter and Facebook. This will mean he is just as subject to the policies and rules of those social media platforms as anyone else. But what does this actually mean for his social media pages?

Official Social Media Pages

During his presidency, Trump has benefited from the social media rules about “world leaders”, meaning that even if he tweets statements that are untrue (or even dangerous), they don’t get deleted, and he doesn’t get suspended. So far, the only consequence the outgoing President has had for sharing untrue or dangerous comments is a fact check placed under the content or a warning and a limiting of the spread of such content. The idea is that information provided by elected officials is worth keeping available online for public interest, even when policies are violated by those people.

Twitter Politician Policies

Twitter’s policy towards politicians was more of an unspoken rule until 2019, when it was codified as the “public interest policy”. This basically says that when world leaders and some other officials publish tweets that violate Twitter policy, those tweets will get a warning but stay online when there is a “clear public interest” in keeping them there. When false information is being spread on the platform, however, what constitutes “clear public interest” becomes a big debate.

Facebook Politician Policies

As far as Facebook goes, politicians are exempt from third party fact checking. Former politicians, however, are not, so anything Trump posts on Facebook after January 20, 2021 will be subject to fact checking.

What the Future Brings

While we cannot truly predict what the effect of this change will be on President Trump’s social media presence, one likely possibility is that Donald Trump will react in an extreme manner as soon as he is censored by Twitter, Facebook, or both. It is entirely possible that he could be banned from these platforms as well, which would result in further extreme reactions across the country.

It’s unlikely that having one person suddenly more subject to fact checking will do much to curb the spread of disinformation on social media. But perhaps this situation will be a driving force for some people to find more reliable sources of information, online and off.


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