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Editorial: Trump social media bans, and broader reform, overdue

The Seattle Times editorial board, The Seattle Times on

Published in Political News

Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms were right to at least temporarily ban President Donald Trump.

The danger of Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and outright lies about election fraud was abundantly clear last week, after he goaded a mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol and interrupted the peaceful transition of power.

This does not absolve platforms of their culpability, however, in amplifying, distributing and normalizing abhorrent and corrosive content for years.

Nor does this let off the hook Trump’s allies and enablers, including many Republican leaders. They are complicit for standing idly by as the president spent four years laying kindling of falsehoods and pouring gasoline of resentment, which he ignited last week.

Yet Americans and policymakers should be wary of oversimplifying the problem as one of social media failing to rein in certain individuals.

Trump was able to stoke revolt by exploiting deep divides in a country that’s losing common ground, including the shared knowledge of current affairs that local newspapers used to provide.

 

Fixing that will require a multifaceted response, including stabilizing what’s left of the free press.

Digital reforms also are needed.

Addressing rampant misinformation on major digital platforms, and their profound and persistent failure to adequately moderate and curate such material, must be part of the state and federal antitrust cases now underway, and reform efforts percolating in Congress.

This also will renew debate over Section 230, a telecommunications law that offers protections from liability. One intent of the law was to encourage websites to moderate objectionable content themselves, a task that the biggest platforms seem to do mostly after damage is done.

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