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What does the Trump presidency mean for the Internet?

Donald Trump Whitehouse composite image

Picture from Kaz Vorpal via Flickr.

 

So, Donald J. Trump is President. You are either saying “oh no” or “hurray”; there is no middle-ground with Mr Trump. Doubtless, there will be headlines in the newspapers about the “world being shaken”, about a “political earthquake” or say things like “markets plummet”.  But after all the brouhaha has settled down we’ll just have to get on with things for the next four years. Regardless of who is in the Whitehouse, the world will still turn; business will still operate, and people will still go about their daily life, just like they did yesterday before the Trump presidency became a reality.

However, the Internet may well change, and we are going to have to get used to it.

Donald J. Trump’s election could have given permission for those who want it to be misogynistic, to express racial hatred and to be vulgar. If the man at the top can be all these things, some will think, why can’t we?

The amount of vitriol online could well increase. So too could the number of trolls. Their “leader” has been elected, and that provides the psychological permission to be like him. If you thought Twitter was a bad place, just wait.

And that may well be bad news for Twitter. The company is already beset with financial issues, is laying off staff, and the rumours about potential buyers have died down, suggesting it ain’t happening anytime soon. On top of this, growth in usage has flattened. With only 310m active users, Twitter has about a quarter of the number of people using Facebook each day. And Twitter is the older brother.

With flatlining usage and financial issues, finding a buyer is tough. But now add into the mix that Twitter could become even more full of vile and bile and why would anyone want to buy it? Trump’s presidency could be the beginning of the end for Twitter. If your Twitter stream becomes too frequently populated with misogynism, racism or bullying, you’ll stop using it; so too will millions of others. The angry people of America who voted in Mr Trump could be a further problem for Twitter if this election result fires them up with enthusiasm for spouting nonsense online.

Of course, most of the people who voted for Mr Trump are not misogynists, racists or sexual molesters. But they are angry. They are cross with a system that has seen their incomes fall, their costs rise and their towns being forgotten. Mr Trump’s victory has given them permission to be more vocal too. You might not witness more abuse on Twitter, but you could see more anger because the election of Mr Trump is “social proof” that these people are right.

Twitter is in a harder position than other social media. Facebook has far too many people elsewhere in the world, plus its finances are in a much stronger position.

But what if Facebook wants to employ some Mexicans or Muslims? That’s going to be a problem now. The same will be true for other US-based tech companies. They will be thinking hard about who they employ. Much of the talent these companies want comes from the Far East or from Spanish speakers. They could, of course, move their international HQs to the country which has the most significant level of e-commerce anywhere in the world, which is the UK. But that’s a problem for them too because Brexit will inevitably mean lack of movement of labour. Internet companies in America could find themselves boxed into a corner where they cannot employ the people they want within the USA and they cannot move to the next most obvious country, all because of anti-immigrant feelings whooped up by politicians like Mr Trump and his UK supporter-in-chief, Nigel Farage. The Trump presidency could see the US-bias of the Internet change, as companies move operations to Asia, for instance.

Ok, I admit, none of this might happen. My theories may be borne out of waking up to a shock result. There are two things we can be sure of in the coming years ahead, though. Firstly, you will have to carry on running your business, regardless. Secondly, change is inevitable. We just have to accept those two things, live with them, and move on.

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