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Politics

Trump got all he needed from Twitter. Now, he still has all the power.

President Trump used Twitter to become the most powerful man in the world. Now, that power is his to keep.

Trump got all he needed from Twitter. Now, he still has all the power.

Trump became the most powerful man in the world thanks to Twitter. Now that he's banned, he'll take that power with him.

Photo: Joshua Hoehne/Unsplash

On Friday night, Twitter announced that it was forever banning President Trump from the digital podium where he conducted his presidency and where, for more than a decade, he built an alternate reality where what he said was always the truth.

There are moral arguments for not doing business with the guy who provoked a violent mob to invade the U.S. Capitol, leaving several people dead. There have been moral arguments for years for not doing business with the guy who spent most of his early mornings and late nights filling the site with a relentless stream of pithy, all-caps conspiracy theories about everything from Barack Obama's birthplace to the 2020 election. There are also moral arguments against tech companies muzzling the president of the United States at all.

Wherever you stand, there's a hard truth to Twitter's decision to stop doing business with Trump now: Trump has already gotten all he needs from Twitter. He's already used the platform — and the company — to become the most powerful man in the world, bending Twitter's carefully-crafted rules and dancing across its neatly-drawn lines, knowing that by virtue of his position, he'd never face repercussions. Now that he has, that power is still his to keep, and it will follow him wherever he winds up next.

Deplatforming a controversial or even dangerous figure doesn't always work that way. Remember Milo Yiannopoulos? The conservative provocateur was credibly threatening to launch his own media company after being removed from Twitter and resigning from Breitbart in scandal — but when Yiannopoulos lost access to these forums, he lost his audience and effectively disappeared from public view.

But the fact that Twitter's decision is unprecedented also means that no one as powerful as the president of the United States has ever been permanently banished from any social media platform. Yes, he will soon lose the office of the presidency and the levers of power that office holds. But Wednesday's show of force by his adherents was evidence that there are many thousands of people willing to commit open insurrection in his name. And that's just the people who could afford a ticket to D.C. in the midst of an unemployment crisis. So it goes without saying that this time will be different.

As soon as Twitter broke the news, explaining that Trump's most recent tweets could be interpreted as incitements to violence in the context of this week, conservative commentators announced (on Twitter, of course) that they were boycotting the site, and invited their followers to seek them out on Parler, the far-right echo chamber of the moment. Shortly after, Google suspended Parler from the Play Store, saying in a statement that the company was "aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the U.S.," including threats on elected officials and plans for a militia march. Apple also reportedly threatened a ban on Parler as well, giving the company 24 hours to develop a moderation policy.

The president also briefly breached Twitter's blockade, tweeting Friday night from the official @POTUS account, which remains unaffected by the ban, to say he was looking into "building out our own platform in the near future." That tweet quickly disappeared, too.

Whether Trump takes his diatribes to Parler or Rumble or 4chan or any of the other platforms that would love his help in quadrupling their engagement, the man who was a media mogul long before he was president will find his venue. The only question is whether the mainstream media will, out of habit, morbid curiosity or concern for public safety, follow him there. If they — if we — do, the next four years will be no different from the last in terms of Trump's chokehold on the national conversation. If not, his audience might be smaller. But it won't be any less angry, any less capable of the violence that Twitter and Google and Facebook and the other tech companies that have taken action this week are afraid of. It will only be more insular, more tunnel-visioned, more removed from a world of information that Trump has said all along is fake news anyway.

Does Elon Musk make Tesla tech?

Between the massive valuation and the self-driving software, Tesla isn't hard to sell as a tech company. But does that mean that, in 10 years, every car will be tech?

You know what's not tech and is a car company? Volkswagen.

Image: Tesla/Protocol

From disagreements about what "Autopilot" should mean and SolarCity lawsuits to space colonization and Boring Company tunnels, extremely online Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his company stay firmly in the news, giving us all plenty of opportunities to consider whether the company that made electric cars cool counts as tech.

The massive valuation definitely screams tech, as does the company's investment in self-driving software and battery development. But at the end of the day, this might not be enough to convince skeptics that Tesla is anything other than a car company that uses tech. It also raises questions about the role that timeliness plays in calling something tech. In a potential future where EVs are the norm and many run on Tesla's own software — which is well within the realm of possibility — will Tesla lose its claim to a tech pedigree?

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Becca Evans
Becca Evans is a copy editor and producer at Protocol. Previously she edited Carrie Ann Conversations, a wellness and lifestyle publication founded by Carrie Ann Inaba. She's also written for STYLECASTER. Becca lives in Los Angeles.

As President of Alibaba Group, I am often asked, "What is Alibaba doing in the U.S.?"

In fact, most people are not aware we have a business in the U.S. because we are not a U.S. consumer-facing service that people use every day – nor do we want to be. Our consumers – nearly 900 million of them – are located in China.

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J. Michael Evans
Michael Evans leads and executes Alibaba Group's international strategy for globalizing the company and expanding its businesses outside of China.
Protocol | Workplace

Apple isn’t the only tech company spooked by the delta variant

Spooked by rising cases of COVID-19, many tech companies delay their office reopening.

Apple and at least two other Silicon Valley companies have decided to delay their reopenings in response to rising COVID-19 case counts.

Photo: Luis Alvarez via Getty

Apple grabbed headlines this week when it told employees it would delay its office reopening until October or later. But the iPhone maker wasn't alone: At least two other Silicon Valley companies decided to delay their reopenings last week in response to rising COVID-19 case counts.

Both ServiceNow and Pure Storage opted to push back their September return-to-office dates last week, telling employees they can work remotely until at least the end of the year. Other companies may decide to exercise more caution given the current trends.

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Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Protocol | Workplace

Half of working parents have felt discriminated against during COVID

A new survey found that working parents at the VP level are more likely to say they've faced discrimination at work than their lower-level counterparts.

A new survey looks at discrimination faced by working parents during the pandemic.

Photo: d3sign/Getty Images

The toll COVID-19 has taken on working parents — particularly working moms — is, by now, well-documented. The impact for parents in low-wage jobs has been particularly devastating.

But a new survey, shared exclusively with Protocol, finds that among parents who kept their jobs through the pandemic, people who hold more senior positions are actually more likely to say they faced discrimination at work than their lower-level colleagues.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Protocol | Enterprise

Alphabet goes deep into industrial robotic software with Intrinsic

If it succeeds, the gambit could help support Google Cloud's lofty ambitions in the manufacturing sector.

Alphabet is aiming to make advanced robotic technology affordable to customers.

Photo: Getty Images

Alphabet launched a new division Friday called Intrinsic, which will focus on building software for industrial robots, per a blog post. The move plunges the tech giant deeper into a sector that's in the midst of a major wave of digitization.

The goal of Intrinsic is to "give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they're completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications," CEO Wendy Tan-White wrote in the post.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

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