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After years of poisoning the civic well with his unique brand of lies, insults, distortions, narcissism, and overall poor manners, Donald Trump has found himself deplatformed.

My spellchecker doesn’t like this word, and I don’t like it either, at least in reference to the actions Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others have taken to silence, ban, suspend, penalize, and otherwise restrict the soon-to-be-ex-President and others from publishing on their respective properties.

Deplatforming, in contrast to these plain-English descriptions of Trump’s plight, is a deliciously Orwellian construct that gives credence to a misconception at the heart of the matter of what society expects from these powerful corporations. The word has its origins in academia, referring to movements at American and British universities beginning in the 1940s to disinvite — or not offer a platform to — certain campus speakers.

The notion of referring this way to the banishment of a particular user emerged in recent years because we have come to think of these behemoth technology companies as platforms for various things, primarily commerce and “social” media. The three biggies all began with whimsical communitarian uses: Twitter as a forum for random and brief observations, Facebook as a digital student handbook, and YouTube as a broadcaster of personal videos.

That was then. Now they are full-blown media companies, each with multi-billion-dollar advertising businesses and plenty of professionally produced content that runs alongside oodles of entertaining and informative ephemera.  Referring to them as platforms, rather than the publishers that they are, acknowledges the protections that are due to them as mere tech concerns. Media companies are liable for what they publish; platforms are mere conduits for other people’s deeds. Put another way, a platform deplatforms; a media company exercises judgement in what it publishes from the outset.

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If the tech companies had stuck to cat videos and the like, all would have been fine. But all manners of vile speech have appeared too, and the companies have labored, under great criticism, to clean up their acts. The problem, as Jonathan Knee, a Columbia Business School professor and media banker, puts it, is that they are not well suited to the task. “The fact that there’s media going on here is secondary to how they think about themselves,” he says. “They are first-rate technologists and third-rate media companies. And they’re really flailing around, trying to figure it out.”

It’s their own fault, of course. For all their short lives, these media giants operated under a fiction codified in law, the infamous Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. It contains a provision that shields supposedly unique and fledgling digital companies from liability for content posted to their sites by someone else, the once shiny-new concept of user-generated content.

Bad actors flocked to the sites alongside middle-aged people reading about their high-school chums. Belatedly and inadequately, the sleeping giants, no longer scrappy startups, woke up. Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, a group that battles hate speech, last year helped organize a ‘Stop Hate …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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