Any speculation about whether Donald Trump will return to Twitter after its permanent suspension in 2021 it should start with two warnings. First, we do not know for sure if and when the alleged new owner of the social media platform, Elon Musk, will lift the ban. Second, Trump he said he would not return.
“I was disappointed with the way I was treated by Twitter,” Trump told CNBC on April 25, 2022. “I will not return to Twitter.”
But if Musk, Trump and social media have taught us anything, it is that the half-life of such warnings can be seconds. It is worth at least taking into account the premise: what is at stake for Trump, Twitter and politics if he returns.
Attracting Twitter it can be irresistible for Trump. Before being kicked off the platform for what Twitter described as “The risk of further incitement to violence” after the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Trump was a prolific user of the site. I know this first hand: between 2017 and 2021 I collected and analyzed all his tweets – about 20,301, except for retweets and links without comment.
Different platform, same story
Trump was a powerful lead storyteller on Twitter. Reaching nearly 89 million followers until the moment of his removal it was only the beginning. Analyzing his use of Twitter, I found that he built a passionate base of loyalists through a consistent narrative that reflects their complaints. He attacks his rivals with mockeryis sold as a solution to all problems and uses the news of the day to warn of enemies near and far.
This highly emotional, high-stakes approach seemed impossible for journalists to ignore. This meant that his message was often skipped from Twitter much larger audienceusually thanks to the media, which treated his tweets as news.
Sometimes it was news. He hired and fired on Twitter and announced many other important decisions there.
Twitter let him to speak directly, without filter, to its base. At the same time, it was a factory for an endless cycle of news. It’s hard to imagine a Trump presidency without Twitter. And maybe it’s even harder to imagine that he could have the same level of attention without him.
Will the public see a different Trump if he returns? Trump’s 16 months in the Twitter desert suggest that this will not happen. Looking at his main forms of communication after Twitter – press releases on his website and speech – The former president attacks others, defends himself, chooses favorites and lists complaints, as he did on Twitter.
It seems that Trump is the same digital spinner who sold a lot of Americans on his basic premise, which I summarize as: “My place prevents me from protecting you from invaders.”
Analyzing these messages after Twitter, it becomes clear that Trump has not changed this story. If nothing else, the story has become even stronger because the establishment and the invaders are now more regularly the same in Trump’s rhetoric. A sample press release of 18 April states the following:
“… the racist and strongly party Attorney General of New York State, the unsuccessful candidate for governor Leticia James, must focus her efforts on saving New York State and ending its reputation as the capital of crime in the world, instead of spending millions of dollars and using much of his office to pursue Donald J. “Trump and the Trump organization (for many years!), Which have probably done more for New York than almost any other person or group.”
All the elements that characterize Trump’s messages are there: mocking an alleged persecutor, glorifying his own accomplishments, and ultimately creating a story in which he and anyone who agrees is a victim. It goes into a broader narrative that institutions such as journalists and politicians have ruined America and harmed its “real” citizens in every way from the economy to popular culture. The portrayal of Trump as a victim and a hero obviously pleases people who believe in this story.
You don’t have to look so hard for indicators of how Trump’s return could go on Twitter – they can be seen in the many press releases he publishes daily. In four similar statements released the day after Musk’s Twitter message, Trump criticized change the name of the Cleveland Indians, support pro-Trump candidate for Congress and encourage supporters to watch a new movie made by “incredible patriots” who “exposed this great electoral fraud.” The latest statement ended with a unifying call to spread the message that “the 2020 elections were rigged and stolen!”
Blue squares and red lines
Although Trump has said he will not return to Twitter, former advisers, speaking anonymously, are not so sure. This may be due to his website, where the press releases are published ranked 34,564th in terms of commitment on April 27, according to Alexa. Twitter ranked 12th the same day. Social truththe Trump-based social media app should be extremely successful to offset the power of attention and influence that Trump enjoyed on Twitter.
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What would Musk-owned Twitter do if Trump, admitted back to the platform, continued to say untrue and misleading things?
Mark tweets as fake or misleading like Trump they often were towards the end of his time on Twitter, May, for “an absolutist of freedom of speech“Which Musk claims to be, cross some perceived boundary. In any case, it may not be as effective. A recent experiment at Cornell University found that tagging false claims on a platform such as Facebook or Twitter “does not affect survey participants’ perceptions of its accuracy and actually increases their likelihood of sharing it on social media.”
The same study found that fact-checking and “refuting a false statement with links to additional information” were more successful, making people less likely to believe false information. And there is Twitter began experimenting with fact-checking function for correcting incorrect information in the platform. Paying attention to what is happening with this feature may give some indication of how much he will be tolerated by Trump if he returns to Twitter.
Meanwhile, however, to Musk desire to follow bots on Twitter – the presence of which is believed to have strengthened Trump’s voice, and potentially his share of the vote – this can be a difficult undertaking.
I’ve changed … really
How will the media react if the former president returns to Twitter, given his previous success in using the platform to provoke media coverage. Research has shown that it is not only Trump who has succeeded enhancing self-reflection through tweetinghe also succeeded divert the media from reporting on potentially negative topics this can damage his reputation by tweeting about something completely different.
It is unclear whether the media will again choose to follow and amplify Trump’s tweets with the same frequency.
Meanwhile, changing a platform like Twitter to address some of the concerns about Trump’s return is a major undertaking. And the chances of Trump himself changing seem even less likely. So if that happens, don’t be surprised if the Trump and Twitter gathering looks a lot like the first round.