“The worldwide agora launched by Fb or Twitter is at midnight”

FIGAROVOX / MAINTENANCE – After his expulsion from major social networks, Donald Trump launched his own platform called Truth Social. For researcher Laurent Gayard, this network may be an alternative to traditional platforms, with the risk of prolonging the opinion bubble.

Laurent Gayard is a professor of history and political science, author Darknet. GAFA. Bitcoin. Anonymity is a choice (ed. Slatkine & Cie).


FIGAROVOX. – Donald Trump launched his social network Truth Social, after he was banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in January, who accused him of inciting his supporters to violence on their platforms before the attack on the Capitol. Who do you think can attract this network?

Laurent Gayard. – One of the main characteristics of social networks is locking people in a bubble of opinion, on this feature we can base the raison d’être of Facebook and its added value from an economic point of view.

While social networks may seem to offer freedom of expression, a global platform and a means of expressing one’s opinion in a way that an individual has never known before, the fact remains that Facebook continues to exploit what is called cognitive bias in sociology. , which are expressed in terms of behavior expressed by an individual’s tendency to think with the group – leaving the impression that he thinks and speaks the opposite – and naturally seeks people with whom he agrees or who publishes content that confirms his assumptions and opinions.

Faced with what is now considered the excessive presence of “Black Lives Matters” or #MeToo on Twitter, political opponents of these movements are retreating, like Donald Trump, to other platforms.

Laurent Gayard

It is a mechanism that encourages conspiracy and it is the behavior that explains why false information is published on the Internet ten times more massively than information based on established facts. It is a type of universal behavior that also transcends political divisions and will be found on both left and right on social media, whose content recommendation algorithms work in a way to comfort people in opinions they have and essentially do not want to be questioned.

Therefore, it can be concluded that, in the same way that Facebook groups or Twitter accounts that express prominent political views will aggregate users who share the same political views and share political views according to their primary affiliation, social networks publish very strong political views from the very beginning. attitudes. identity, such as Donald Trump’s Social Truth, will attract enormous supporters of the same side, ideological enemies who want to follow their enemies, curious people, journalists and several researchers … Unless’ huge dissatisfaction with major social media creates a threshold effect in favor of Truth Social or Donald Trump’s speech that takes on universal value, two phenomena that I doubt will happen very soon.

His former campaign spokesman, Jason Miller, has already launched his social network Gettr on July 1, 2021, which is claimed to be uncensored. Will social media become increasingly polarized in terms of opinion?

This is already the case, if we look at the evolution of Facebook, accused in turn of favoring Trump’s victory in 2016, and by today’s Trump supporters of practicing systematic censorship against all profiles that are a little too politically incorrect.

Same thing for Twitter, a political network par excellence, which regularly provokes controversy of all kinds, into which politicians and people can be drawn in a short amount of time. I will cite as an example the case of the unfortunate Antoine Griezmann accused of transmitting racist stereotypes and indulging in a hated tradition blackface when he had the misfortune to post on social media his photo of a black basketball player dressed (in fact, honoring his favorite basketball team, he defended himself).

For several years now, social networks, more or less confidential, have multiplied and many have put forward two strong arguments to differentiate themselves from the dominant models of Facebook and Twitter: user data protection and freedom of speech.

Laurent Gayard

But faced with what are now considered major ideological and political cleansing operations launched on their platforms by Facebook or Twitter leaders, or the excessive presence of Black Lives Matters or #MeToo, political opponents of these movements are retreating, like Donald Trump, to other platforms.

However, the phenomenon is already old and “free” alternatives have not waited for Truth social or GETTR to develop. We mean Gab (launched in 2017) or Parler network (2018), become a haven foralt right Supporters of the Americans or QAnon. Trump even opened an account on Parler before launching Truth Social. We can clearly see that the global agora model launched by Facebook or Twitter is losing ground even if these social media gathers billions of users (or hundreds of millions for Twitter).

For several years now, social networks, more or less confidential, have multiplied and many have put forward two strong arguments to differentiate themselves from the dominant models of Facebook and Twitter: user data protection and freedom of speech. Therefore, we see the development of networks that represent a model based on chat rooms privately, with a more limited audience, but greater freedom of tone because moderation is much easier there. Or platforms that adopt the Facebook / Twitter model but attract more politically prominent user communities.

Can the French like this type of network?

France has the ten most used social networks in 2020, respectively: Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, TikTok and Discord. On this list, three social networks belong to Facebook: WhatsApp (bought in February 2014 for 19 billion dollars), Instagram (bought in April 2012 for 1 billion) and Messenger. Zuckerberg’s company even tried to buy Snapchat in 2013 for $ 3 billion, and the offer still stands. Faced with this huge dominance, the threshold effect clearly works against Truth Social or Gettr, even in the United States.

Donald Trump, however, retained a very strong partisan base, which with still great popular discontent could ensure the success of two new social networks in Uncle Sam’s homeland. We don’t see how Truth Social or Gettr could establish themselves in the French landscape, but it is very difficult to make predictions in this area, as evidenced by the recent success of the newcomer, Clubhouse, social media based solely on sound and claims to lead to hundreds of thousands of discussions every day on all topics, including political topics.

Leave a Comment