Trump lashed out on Twitter (ironically) yesterday, to state that the three big tech companies of Silicon Valley – Facebook, Google and Twitter – have all been biased towards the Democrats, and helping the Democrats get their message out there. President Trump was claiming that Twitter was making it much harder for people to join him (he likely meant his follower count was too low, at 56 million followers). This comes after the CEO's of all three companies have testified on Capital Hill regarding this bias, with Google's CEO being the most recent one. This has been an ongoing thing for all three companies. Many believe that they are all biased towards Democrats, after all the executives at most tech companies in Silicon Valley have contributed to Democrats' campaigns in the past, so that isn't a huge surprise.
This all comes just days after a bombshell report that the Senate had commissioned, went public. Which found that the Russians used every single social media platform available, to help influence the 2016 Presidential Election, and help get Trump elected. Originally, the Russians were just looking to keep Hilary Clinton from getting elected, and by the end of the year, that meant getting Trump elected. In these reports, it was found that Russians used Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit and Pinterest to help influence the election in 2016, and that continued to the mid-terms this year. The main purpose behind this was to undermine citizens' trust in the US government, and it did work to a degree.
Twitter has responded to the President's allegations here, stating that it does not punish its users, due to them being conservative versus a liberal. It also mentioned that the reason why Trump's following count went down recently, was due to the purge of bots that it did over the summer. The President lost about 300,000 followers, and he was one of many who saw some pretty big drops in following counts over the summer. So this is not unique to the president. The reason for these purges were to keep follower numbers from being inflated but also get rid of accounts that aren't being used anymore, or were used by robots and not real people. All told, Twitter actually purged around nine million accounts over the summer. And while your follower counts may be lower now, they are more likely to be engaging followers that are actually reading your stuff. Which is even more important, especially as social media becomes a part of everyday life.
Background: This is not the first time that Trump has called out Twitter for its "bias" and it likely won't be the last. Since Trump was elected and took office in January 2017, he has gone after several companies on Twitter. Not only Twitter, but also companies like Amazon, and even going after world leaders – like the leaders of China and North Korea – as well. It's a platform that the president uses prolifically, even though his aides urge him not too. However, his lashing out at Twitter, over different issues, have been debunked several times. As Twitter mentioned in its response, Trump's follower count dropped because the bots were removed from Twitter. There has also been research that shows the most popular news stories on sites like Twitter, come from conservative news outlets, like Fox News. But this hasn't stopped republicans from claiming that social media sites and search engines like Google, are censoring them.
Impact: This was bound to happen. With all the algorithms that companies – particularly Facebook, Google and Twitter – use, it was bound to look like their content is being censored in some way or another, even if it isn't true. These algorithms are used to scale these services, seeing as Google could not go through all of the content published in a single day to figure out where it would rank best in search results for each query. Which is why algorithms are so important to these companies. But it does give the appearance that some content is being "hidden" or pushed down the news feed, when it actually isn't. Or if it is, it's because you haven't engaged with that content in the past, and thus likely won't want to see it.
In the new year, bias for Facebook, Google and Twitter are likely going to be some pretty big topics. These are things that are not going to go away, and until the three can figure out a way to keep content from looking bias, it likely won't be going away anytime soon.