Expert: Suspending Trump social media accounts ‘like trying to stop a leak in a cracking dam’
January 7, 2021
Twitter and Facebook’s unprecedented decisions to suspend President Trump’s accounts are well intentioned – but still won’t do much to stop the spread of misinformation in the future, Virginia Tech expert Mike Horning says.
“These efforts, while well-intended, are like trying to stop a leak in a cracking dam,” says Horning, an associate professor of multimedia journalism. “The greater problem we face is that social media allows misinformation to spread at an unprecedented pace, and to be replicated as quickly as it is removed.”
“In addition, every attempt to suppress speech is often met with cries of censorship, and these efforts confirm in the minds of some people that social media companies privilege certain forms of speech and limit others,” says Horning. “Such attempts not only contribute to the division, they also often ensure that the information is more widely shared on private and personal social networks that already feel that social media has biases.”
“The problem social media companies’ face is that they have created something that they seem to be unable to control, and it remains to be seen how this impacts our democracy in the long run,” says Horning.
Mike Horning is an associate professor of multimedia journalism in the Virginia Tech School of Communication and director of social informatics research in the Center for Human Computer Interaction at Virginia Tech. His research examines how communication technologies impact social attitudes and behaviors, with a current focus on the impact of “fake news” and misinformation on our democratic processes. His expertise has been featured in The Hill, on Sinclair Broadcast Group, and in a number of other media outlets.
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