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Twitter and Trump: It’s Complicated

The social media company will stand up and speak out against Trump — until it might hurt its business.

It’s no secret that Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) is President Trump’s favorite social media platform by far. Our Tweeter-in-Chief can’t seem to stay off the service, and his tweets make national headlines just about every day.

Some Street analysts have even argued that Trump’s usage of Twitter could lead to higher user engagement, which in turn could translate into higher ad revenue. While engagement is on the rise, Twitter isn’t successfully monetizing that increased usage. Meanwhile, many have called for Twitter to suspend Trump’s account because of his propensity to personally attack his critics; the president’s tweets could sometimes be construed as violating the company’s terms of service. This is all against a backdrop of Twitter’s continued troll problem in general.

This puts Twitter into a precarious position. Silicon Valley is nearly universally opposed to Trump’s policies, and CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted against the de facto Muslim ban from January.

It’s only getting more complicated.

Standing up against Trump

Yesterday, news broke that Twitter is suing the government in order to block its request to provide identifying information about an account critical of Trump, @ALT_USCIS. Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, many federal agencies created unofficial alternate accounts as a form of protest after the administration had attempted to silence a national park’s account over tweeting scientific facts regarding climate change. @ALT_USCIS is one such account (USCIS stands for United States Citizen and Immigration Services).

Government requests aren’t uncommon, especially when there’s a legitimate law enforcement purpose, but the obvious fear here is that the administration is looking to penalize whoever is operating the account for speaking critically, assuming it’s a federal government employee. Twitter argues that handing over identifying information would have a “grave chilling effect” on free speech. Privacy has become an important topic and source of tension between many major tech companies and government agencies, and Twitter is taking a stand.

Until it might hurt the business

Meanwhile, Twitter has started to run ads in Japan that prominently feature a picture of Trump and essentially pitches the service as a way to keep up with news in real time. The company says that the ad campaign will only run for two weeks and is exclusive to the Japanese market. In other words, Twitter opposes Trump when privacy or civil rights are involved, but it simultaneously hopes that Trump’s usage of Twitter can drive engagement and financial results, and is even willing to use his image to promote the service.

Yeah, it’s pretty complicated.

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Evan Niu, CFA, has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Twitter. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

 

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky

Editor-in-Chief

BIOGRAPHY

Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.