It has been a deafening silence from Donald Trump in his favourite bully pulpit since the rioting at Capitol Hill and somehow some of us must be feeling uncomfortable about it. Because it is in such social channels that the outgoing US president had found a conduit for the outpouring of his vicious lies and twisted racist ideologies, his skewed views of the world and his dictums.
Facebook and Twitter were the favourite tools of his seeking to sow division and distrust in society.
With Twitter banning him permanently and Facebook kicking him off, Trump suddenly feels emasculated and meek. Since his inciting the riot at Capitol Hill, the world could get his only reaction about the goings-on through a perfunctory media briefing.
Should we feel glad that the social media have banned him? Not really. We should rather be worried that the reactions of Twitter and Facebook actually came too late, too slow to cause not only the riot but many of the preceding evils. It is time, though late, to sit back and have an introspection of the roles of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter rather than of Trump, a scrutiny of what roles these social media are playing in the society and with what responsibility.
When such media and their privacy eroding, surveillance capitalism business models were first forged by Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey et al, they were subjected to starry eyed adulation as the new gods who have wrought a new medium in favour of the quintessential American value of freedom of expression. The angst-ridden minds of the new generation found release into the many splendoured world of memes and cat pictures, and short videos and vlogs, and the voiceless got a megaphone to scream their concerns. They were the great empowering tools.
They still are. But with a big dash.
Very soon they turned into the conduits for propaganda, racism and bigotry. They became tools for defamation of the most arbitrary nature redress of which are nearly impossible for most.
They became the severest form of capitalistic exploitation of the society by the very nature of their callousness and lack of responsibility.
Imagine if this newspaper was used by the bigots in 2013 to spread the degenerate falsehood that war criminal Saydee's face had been seen on the moon to foment the bigots. The subsequent mayhem left hundreds dead. We can be pretty sure that this newspaper would have been taken to the court, its editor arrested for criminal act and punished.
What happened to Facebook through which the actual propaganda was spread? Absolutely nothing. The government finally had to block the Facebook pages and yet the propaganda seeped out from various crevices too numerous to stopper.
In Bangladesh, numerous propaganda pages were run by extremists who had targeted and killed progressive thinkers of the country. Facebook took no responsibility for any of it.
Investigations in the terrible Holey Artisan massacre showed the young extremists had been converted by the mantra of hatred from the Facebook page of Zakir Nayek.
Facebook and Twitter have found a very irresponsible way of doing business. They have opened their platforms and anybody can post anything without them taking any responsibility. No country has challenged this irresponsible business model, strangely, until and only when the very core of the Western societies' values was shaken by the hatred and extremism spread using these platforms. There is no accountability here for giving currency to falsehood and hatred, polarisation and division.
I know a friend of mine who had written for months to Facebook to get derogatory items about her removed without success.
And this newspaper's YouTube channel once got a 'strike' because it had used Bangladesh's national anthem tune all created by itself on the ground that it was a copyright violation.
Today people have been constantly flooded with bogus news on how to fight coronavirus with quack treatments, and Facebook has actually changed people's news consumption pattern. Nobody cares about the authenticity and authority of news sources any more. All they know is it 'came' from Facebook and so anything and everything is believable.
The very reason why Trump started using Twitter to vent his hateful views lies in the unaccountable nature of the medium.
These media have exploited our biases and weaknesses with precision algorithms, promoting and fanning whatever gathers more views all because it makes business sense for them.
They have helped strew about rabbit holes of lies and conspiracies all around.
When such is the nature of a medium, the society needs to take a long look at it and tame it. Otherwise lies and hatred will spread far and wide. The very lustful business model of Facebook and Twitter needs to be restrained if society has to survive.
Inam Ahmed is the Editor of The Business Standard