Social media double standards at play

January 10, 2021 - 21:14

TEHRAN – Donald Trump is under attack from everywhere. Many social media platforms, most notably Twitter, suspended Trump’s accounts. Mainstream media keeps grilling him. Lehigh University has rescinded and revoked an honorary degree it granted to Trump more than three decades ago. For what? All because a number of Trump supporters held a demonstration in front of the U.S. Congress and some of them broke into the offices of some Congressmen and Congresswomen.

As U.S. lawmakers geared up to take part in sessions to certify Joe Biden’s elections as president on Wednesday, thousands of Trump’s angry supporters stormed the building to vent their rage on the lawmakers, leaving at least four people dead and forcing the Senate to evacuate.

The attack created a dramatic scene during which police officers drew their guns as rioters tried to break into the House chamber. Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the joint session of Congress, rushed out of the Senate for fear of being caught by the angry rioters. Some senators were taken to a secure location amid the sounds of throngs of President Donald Trump's supporters who surrounded the Capitol.

At least four people, including a woman fatally shot by U.S. Capitol police, were killed during the Wednesday riot.

Trump was widely blamed for the attack as it happened after he urged his supporters to stop the ceremonial counting of the electoral votes that would confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Trump even asked Pence to do so but the vice president refused to obstruct the Congress ceremonial session.

DC Police Chief Robert Contee confirmed the killing of four people during the Wednesday attack on Capitol.

“One adult female and two adult males appear to have suffered from separate medical emergencies, which resulted in their deaths. Any loss of life in the District is tragic and our thoughts are with anyone impacted by their loss,” Contee said at a news conference on Wednesday night.

Trump who has instigated his supporters to demonstrate against the Congress in the first place, quickly sought to distance himself from the violence on the Capitol. But it was too late.

On Wednesday morning, Trump held a rally nearby the White House, urging his supporters to “walk down to the Capitol” to fight against the outcome of the November election, which he described as an “egregious assault on our democracy.”

“We are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women,” he continued, “and we are probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them — because you will never take back our country with weakness,” Trump told his supporters.

Meanwhile, Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, warned the Republican members of Congress that if they don’t back Trump, they will face challenges. “We’re coming for you,” Donald Trump Jr threatened.

These statements and remarks united all Trump’s opponents against him, paving the way for Twitter to put an end to Trump’s social media empire. Following the attack on the Capitol, Twitter took the controversial step of permanently suspending Trump’s account, a move that separated the U.S. president from his more than 80 million followers on Twitter.

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said in a statement on Friday.

In suspending Trump’s account, Twitter referred to two tweets as inciting violence without giving any evidence that Trump has incited violence. Instead, Twitter said it suspended the Trump account because of how the president's supporters receive his tweets. In other words, Twitter did not suspend Trump’s account because he incited violence, rather it suspended the account because Trump has supporters who could use Trump’s tweet as a justification for committing violent acts.

Twitter’s action against Trump was another case of Twitter using a double standard in dealing with violence. Over the past few years, Trump has issued several violent threats against Iran, including threats to attack Iran’s cultural sites, but Twitter did nothing to stop these threats.

“Let this serve as a warning that if Iran strikes any Americans or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level and important to Iran and Iranian culture, will be hit very fast and hard,” Trump said in a tweet last year in January following the U.S. assassination of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

Trump’s threat against Iran’s cultural sites elicited a strong response from pundits all over the world. “Trump says he'll target Iran's cultural sites. That's illegal,” NPR said in a report at that time.

However, Twitter did not move to restrict Trump’s threatening tweet, let alone suspending his account. This duplicity has caused some Twitter users in Iran to castigate it for its double standards.

“When Trump used Twitter to threaten attacks against 52 Iranian cultural sites, in Twitter’s view there was no danger posed against anyone. But they just got the meaning of violence with the attack on Congress. Of course, violence against the people of the Middle East [West Asia] is completely legitimate and a tool of democracy,” a Twitter user called Maryam Zmohazabiyeh said in a tweet.

In addition to violence, Twitter's decision to expel Trump has a political dimension, something that has long been obvious for Iran. It referred to concerns over an “orderly transition” as a reason for suspending Trump’s account.

“President Trump’s statement that he will not be attending the Inauguration is being received by a number of his supporters as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate and is seen as him disavowing his previous claim made via two Tweets by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Dan Scavino, that there would be an ‘orderly transition’ on January 20,” Twitter said, adding, “The mention of his supporters having a ‘GIANT VOICE long into the future’ and that ‘They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!’ is being interpreted as further indication that President Trump does not plan to facilitate an ‘orderly transition’ and instead that he plans to continue to support, empower, and shield those who believe he won the election.”

This is all while Twitter moved to undermine the transition of power during Iran’s 2009 presidential election when it delayed maintenance operation at the behest of the U.S. State Department to foment unrest in Iran and help spread rumors about the outcome of that year’s election. Writing on the company’s blog on June 15, 2009, Biz Stone of Twitter said that the company will delay “a critical network upgrade” because of the “role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran.” A day later, the Obama administration admitted that it asked Twitter to stay open to help unrest in Iran.

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