Unblock Me You... President?

The worst website meets with the worst president

Unblock Me You... President?

Here’s an extra edition of the newsletter, because I thought there were two stories worth writing about.

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All The President’s Posts

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office Tuesday, where the duo was said to be tackling the topic of “the health of the public conversation on Twitter,” Motherboard reports. Details of the meeting were not shared with the public prior, either by the social media company or the White House.

Journalists at The Washington Post subsequently reported that the group of administration officials and Twitter staff discussed Trump’s follower count online. WaPo reports:

A significant portion of the meeting focused on Trump’s concerns that Twitter quietly, and deliberately, has limited or removed some of his followers, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation who requested anonymity because it was private. Trump said he had heard from fellow conservatives who had lost followers for unclear reasons as well.

Mr. 45 asking the CEO of what could be argued is the world’s most influential social media site why his follower account is dropping is absurd and hilarious to me except for the whole “he is the most powerful politician in America” thing. I maintain my position that if Trump were not president and there were no serious consequences to his words and policy stances, he would be one of the best accounts online by far. Brain-poisoning at this level is only matched by all-star “Weird Twitter” accounts like “Walter(Owen’s Grandpa).”

Instead, there’s a very real possibility that Twitter could alter its approach to moderating its platform based on this meeting. That is particularly alarming as we crawl toward 2020 elections.

The scene is best suited for a sitcom, like HBO’s Veep, the show that Washingtonians love because boy oh boy is this city quirky and dysfunctional and gee whiz there’s finally a TV show about it. Isn’t politics fun?! Look, Joe Biden is here!

P.S. The actual answer to the Trump’s question is that Twitter has been working to purge automated accounts, but I imagine the conversation going more like a Diamond & Silk video and I picture Jack nodding along and trying to reassure the president that his website would never punish one of their biggest users.

She says she's leavin’ on a Sunday,
I don't care I need to know where to turn.
I tried it once it never caught on,
I was the only one who got burned.

-“She Doesn’t Get It” by The Format

Grabbing a Bite with the Boston Marathon Bomber

Also Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders joined CNN for a town hall forum to talk about his bid for the 2020 Democratic Party nomination for president. During the conversation, Sanders laid out his policy solutions to systemic problems he believes are facing Americans. One moment, however, stood out in particular.

Sanders argued that citizens should be able to vote from prison, even if they’re terrible people. This stance is not new for Sanders, and a member of the town hall crowd asked him about it.

“Does this mean that you would support enfranchising people like the Boston Marathon bomber, a convicted terrorist and murderer?” a Harvard student from—and I stress that this is not a joke—the Harvard Undergraduate Centrist Society asked.

The Vermont senator answered the question without letting the Boston Marathon bomber subtext distract him from his message that disenfranchising citizens of their participation in Democracy is wrong. It was a fair question, in general.

However, CNN’s Chris Cuomo swept in to make sure he addressed that Boston Marathon bomber thing directly. He asked Sanders: “Are you sure about that?” CNN’s Anderson Cooper brought up the topic again when speaking to Pete Buttigieg.

This is what politics is now, and its partially a byproduct of our new media ecosystem that rewards viral moments more than substantive discussion. Sound bites and short lines have dominated political media for years. I think back to Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments, for example. But now media is instant and louder than ever; the playing field online is a purportedly equal opportunity space for the next big “thing” we all talk about. These moments come and go, and the fleetingness of the whole thing does not escape me.