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How news outlets are positioning Trump’s lawsuit against Big Tech

(MEDIA NEWS) As Trump’s lawsuit against Big Tech hits the airwaves, media outlets act less predictably than some would think. And most are missing what we believe will be the ultimate outcome.

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Former President Trump

In a bold move against “Big Tech,” former U.S. president Donald Trump is suing social media organizations that banned him earlier this year. The class action lawsuit, led by Trump himself, hopes to address the increasing impunity exhibited by these tech companies; there are multiple avenues of coverage that all predict different outcomes, the most likely of which is stronger regulation for tech companies.

Part of the larger issue is that the word “tech” is inherently misleading in the context of companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – all of which are named in Trump’s lawsuit. While others waffled on understanding the difference between tech and media, we have insisted that one can only be categorized as a “technology” company if its primary product is hardware or software; “media” companies involve the dissemination of content using a digital platform.

But companies that might otherwise qualify as solely media-based have been blurring the lines for years, leading to a dearth of understanding regarding their very categorization – and how to enforce the laws that accompany that denomination.

Classifying companies like Facebook and Twitter as tech companies, therefore, is problematic in that the regulation often applied to media companies cannot be applied to them, despite a clear need for regulatory consistency.

In any event, the lawsuit itself alleges that these companies formed a monolithic stance, one whose “status thus rises beyond that of a private company to that of a state actor,” subjecting the companies in question to legal scrutiny under the first amendment – a right that Trump’s attorneys argue was violated when the former president was banned from using these sites.

There are several trains of thought regarding this lawsuit, the majority of which follow the expected party lines; however, one consistent player is Section 230, which is legislation that prevents social media companies from being held accountable for the content that their users create, publish, or share.

Right-leaning news outlets are focusing on possible infringement of free speech and the increasing prominence social media companies play in dictating real-world outcomes, with Fox News quoting Mark Meckler (former interim Parler CEO) as saying the lawsuit could “break new ground.” Trump himself pointed to Twitter’s continued entertainment of violent foreign “dictators” in his absence, alleging support for the idea that conservatives are being censored on social media.

Trump is also quoted as referring to social media as “the de facto censorship arm of the U.S. government” in light of companies like Facebook and Twitter enforcing policies against misinformation, largely at the behest of left-leaning government officials.

This aligns with the “state actor theory” in which social media companies are held with the same regard as government agencies in recognition of the power they wield.

A social media company’s status as a private entity, Trump argues, does not protect it from liability in an ecosystem in which these companies have as much influence as they do, arguing instead for the abolishing of Section 230.

Conservative news outlets are predominantly optimistic about the lawsuit’s success, with sources such as Meckler pointing out that this constitutes “a developing area of the law” that could result in a crackdown on Section 230 – something that would change the way social media companies operate for the foreseeable future.

Left-leaning news outlets are more focused on the flaws in the lawsuit, however, with The Daily Beast asserting that “constitutional law experts almost laughed at the legal arguments presented in the suits.”

“The argument here that Facebook should be considered a state actor is not at all persuasive,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

Jaffer also points out inconsistencies in the lawsuit’s motivations: “It’s also difficult to square the arguments in the lawsuit with President Trump’s actions in office. The complaint argues that legislators coerced Facebook into censoring speech, but no government actor engaged in this kind of coercion more brazenly than Trump himself.”

These outlets similarly reference Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter cooperating with the CDC to prevent the spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19 – something that Trump’s legal team has cited as evidence that social media companies were colluding with Democrats.

Left-leaning sources acknowledge that the lawsuit could be damaging should it succeed in repealing or altering the parameters around Section 230, but they primarily view this lawsuit as more of a fundraising attempt than a legitimate gripe with the law.

“They know that they’re going to lose and this is a fundraising, publicity stunt that maybe lets them take a section 230 case up the appellate ladder,” says Ari Cohn, a lawyer with TechFreedom.

Cohn also asserted that the argument about Facebook as a state actor is old news, and other sources explained that the lawsuit is most likely a distraction from other stories more than anything else.

There are some fringe takes regarding this lawsuit as well, with Daily Wire calling the lawsuit a “publicity stunt” that is “dead on arrival” due to misinterpretations of Section 230 and the inaccurate logic that led up to the portrayal of Facebook as a “state actor”.

Similarly, centrist news org, The Hill, emphasizes that “the case is frivolous, and… will almost certainly be dismissed in court because private companies are not subject to comply with the First Amendment, which upends the basis of the complaint’s argument.”

Whether or not this lawsuit finds traction, the most reasonable outcome to expect is a closer look at how social media companies are classified, what their role is in public dealings, and which laws pertain to them while they occupy the liminal space between technology and media dissemination.

“Tech” companies have operated without proper regulation for far too long, and while the context here is divisive, the idea of holding these companies accountable to consistent legal expectations should not be.

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

Social Media

Why Trump’s lawsuit against social media still matters

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Former President Trump snagged headlines for suing every large social media platform, and it has gone quiet, but it still deeply matters.

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It was splashed across headlines everywhere in July: Former President Trump filed a lawsuit against social media platforms that he claims unrightfully banned him during and after the fallout of the January 6th capitol riots. The headlines ran for about a week or so and then fell off the radar as other, fresher, just-as-juicy news headlines captured the media’s eye.

Many of us were left wondering what that was all about and if anything ever became of it. For even more of us, it probably passed out of our minds completely. Lack of public awareness for these things is common after the initial media blitz fades.

Lawsuits like these in the US can take months, if not years between newsworthy milestones. The most recent news I could find as of this publishing is from August 24, 2021, on Yahoo! News from the Washington Examiner discussing the Trump camp’s request for a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit.

This particular suit shouldn’t be left to fade from memory in the shadows though, and here’s why:

In the past few years, world powers have been reigning in regulations on social media and internet commerce. The US is actually a little behind the curve. Trump may have unwittingly given us a source of momentum to get with the times.

In the European Union, they have the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), widely acknowledged to be one of the toughest and most thorough privacy laws in the world, a bold title. China just passed its own pair of laws in the past four months: The Data Security Law, which took effect on Sept. 1, and The Personal Information Law, set to take effect November 1st. The pair is poised to give the GDPR a run for its money for that title.

Meanwhile, in the US, Congress has been occupied with other things and, while there are five bills that took aim at tech monopoly currently on the table and a few CEOs had to answer some questions, little actual movement or progress has been made on making similar privacy protections a thing in the United States.

Trump’s lawsuit, while labeled by many as a toothless public relations move, may actually create momentum needed to push regulation of tech and social media forward in the US. The merits of the case are weak and ultimately the legislation that would give it teeth doesn’t exist yet.

You can’t hold tech companies accountable to a standard that doesn’t properly exist in law.

However, high profile attention and someone willing to continue to make noise and bring attention back to the subject, one of Trump’s strongest talents, could be “just what the doctor ordered” to inspire Congress to make internet user rights and data privacy a priority in the US, finally.

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Even solopreneurs are doing live commerce online – it’s not just QVC’s game anymore

(SOCIAL MEDIA) When you think of watching a show and buying things in real time, it invokes thoughts of QVC, but social media video has changed all that.

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After the year everyone has had, one wouldn’t be remiss in thinking that humanity wants a break from live streaming. They would, however, be wrong: Live online commerce – a method of conversion first normalized in China – is the next evolution of the ubiquitous e-commerce experience, which means it’s something you’ll want on your radar.

Chinese company, Alibaba first live streamed on an e-commerce site in 2016, allowing buyers to watch, interact with, and buy from sellers from the comfort of their homes. In 2020, that same strategy netted Alibaba $7.5 billion in presale revenue – and it only took 30 minutes, according to McKinsey Digital.

But, though western audiences have proven a desire to be just as involved with sellers during the buying process, live commerce hasn’t taken off here the way it has elsewhere. If e-commerce merchants want to maximize their returns in the next few years, that needs to change.

McKinsey Digital points out a couple of different benefits for organizations using live commerce, the main one being an influx in traffic. Live streaming events break the buying experience mold, and consumers love being surprised. You can expect that prospective buyers who wouldn’t necessarily visit your store under normal circumstances would find value in attending a live event.

Live events also keep people on your site for longer, resulting in richer conversion opportunities.

The sense of urgency inherent in in-person shopping doesn’t always translate to online markets, but having a stream showing decreasing inventory or limited-availability items being sold inspires people to act expeditiously rather than sitting on a loaded cart–something that can kill an e-commerce conversion as quickly as it starts one.

There are a ton of different ways to incorporate live events into your e-commerce campaigns. Virtual auctions are popular, as are markets in which individual sellers take buyers through inventory. However, the live event could be tangentially related–or even just something impressive running in parallel with the sale–and still bring in a swell of revenue.

Screen fatigue is real, and there isn’t a true substitute for a brick-and-mortar experience when done correctly. But if you have an e-commerce shop that isn’t utilizing some form of live entertainment–even just to bring in new buyers–you’re going to want to try this strategy soon.

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LinkedIn is nixing Stories this month (LinkedIn had Stories!?)

(SOCIAL MEDIA) LinkedIn tried to be like the cool kids and launched “Stories,” but the video feature is being shelved and “reimagined.” Ok.

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Creating the next big thing is essential for social networks to stay relevant, continue growing, and avoid shutting down. Sometimes, this leads to businesses trying to ride along with the success of another app’s latest feature and creating their cloned version. While the logic of recreating something already working makes sense, the results aren’t universal.

This time around, LinkedIn is saying goodbye to its short-lived Snapchat-like video product, Stories. In a company post, LinkedIn says it’s removing its Stories experience by the end of September.

Why is LinkedIn retiring Stories?

According to a post by Senior Director of Product at LinkedIn Liz Li, “[LinkedIn] introduced Stories last year as a fun and casual way to share quick video updates.”

After some testing and feedback, they learned this is not what users wanted. Seems like they could have beta tested with users and heard the same thing, but I digress.

“In developing Stories, we assumed people wouldn’t want informal videos attached to their profile, and that ephemerality would reduce barriers that people feel about posting. Turns out, you want to create lasting videos that tell your professional story in a more personal way and that showcase both your personality and expertise,” said Li.

What does this mean for users?

Starting on September 30, 2021, users will no longer be able to create Stories for Pages. If you’ve already planned to have an image or video ads run in-between Stories, they will now appear on the LinkedIn feed instead. For those who used Campaign Manager to promote or sponsor a Story directly from your Page, the company says “these paid Stories will not appear in the LinkedIn feed”, and the user will need to recreate the ad in Campaign Manager.

What’s next for LinkedIn?

According to Li, LinkedIn is taking what it learned from its finding to “evolve the Stories format into a reimagined video experience across LinkedIn that’s even richer and more conversational.” It plans on doing so by using mixed media and the creative tools of Stories.

“As we reimagine what is next, we’re focusing on how we can provide you with a short-form, rich interactive video format that is unique to our platform and that better helps you reach and engage your audiences on LinkedIn. We’re always excited to try out new things and learn as we go, and will continue to share updates along the way,” the company said.

Although Stories didn’t work well for LinkedIn as they hoped, one thing is for sure. LinkedIn isn’t giving up on some form of interactive video, and we can only hope they “reimagine” something unique that keeps users coming back for more.

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