Capitol riot a ‘rocket ship’ for Twitter and Facebook, ad media expert says

FAN Editor

Ad media expert Mark Douglas told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” that the violence on Capitol Hill perpetrated by a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters is a “rocket ship” for social media companies’ advertising businesses. 

“Political turmoil drives increased engagement on social media, and right or wrong, that generates more revenue for Facebook and Twitter,” said Douglas, the founder and CEO of adtech firm Steelhouse. “Even if there are brands who ultimately decide to pause their advertising because of brand safety concerns, the increases in revenue more than offsets that. This may be a challenging time for social media censorship, but it’s a rocket ship for their ad business.”

In the third quarter, Facebook made $21+ billion from ad revenue and Twitter made $808 million. Facebook’s average revenue per user was $7.89 while Twitter’s average revenue per user was $4.30.

Multiple social media platforms threw Trump off of their sites after he incited a mob of his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overturn his election loss. 

Jim Anderson is a social media expert and the CEO of SocialFlow, an optimization platform that publishes content to the major social media channels. He told “The News with Shepard Smith” that the near-unanimity of action was “striking” but noted “the day social media companies decided there is more they could do to police Trump’s behavior was also the same day that President Trump’s supporters stormed and occupied the U.S. Capitol.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted that both social media sites have banned Trump’s account from posting for at least the remainder of his term in office and potentially “indefinitely.” 

“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” wrote Zuckerberg. 

Anderson explained that Wednesday’s violence is resonating with Facebook in a way that previous incidents didn’t. 

“It also may be an indication of the increasing concern coming from Facebook’s employee base. Any company ignores its employees at its peril,” Anderson said. 

On Wednesday, Facebook employees called for Trump’s removal from the platform on an internal message board. Back in June hundreds of Facebook employees staged a “virtual walkout” in protest of the company’s policies regarding posts by the President. 

Douglas, however, said that the most interesting thing about Zuckerberg’s statement was the acknowledgement of Facebook’s impact on the political process and society as a whole. 

“The days of thinking Facebook is just a conduit appear to be over and the desire of Facebook to editorialize content on Facebook appears to now be in full swing,” Douglas said. 

Twitter also placed a lock on Trump’s account for 12 hours Wednesday. A spokesperson said the social media giant is still evaluating further action. 

Anderson explained that the media plays a major role in magnifying the president’s Twitter account. 

“President Trump’s social media ‘superpower’ has never been the Tweets themselves — it’s been the ability to get the media to cover what he tweets,” Anderson said. “He’s not going to be able to replicate that on Parler. It’s just not big enough, diverse enough, or viewed by enough journalists to move the needle the way Twitter does.”

Douglas added that President Trump’s access to Twitter is “irrelevant” and  echoed Anderson’s sentiments.

“The real power is the amplification of his message through media outlets,” said Douglas. “They are the ones that really have the power here and that’s already evidenced today [Thursday] where his comments are simply being posted by other people.”

Amazon’s Twitch, a game-centered streaming platform, disabled the president’s account. Reddit says it’s taking action on reported violations of its content policies, which prohibit the incitement of violence. In a retweet of the NAACP, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian described the rioters as “domestic terrorists.”

Trump’s verified Snapchat account was blocked indefinitely. Last June, Snap stopped promoting the president’s content within its Discover feature. Shopify took down two of the president’s campaign e-commerce sites. 

YouTube says it’s boosting its enforcement of voter fraud claims against Trump and others. It also took down the president’s speech addressing rioters, as well as several additional videos that either promoted violence or included people carrying firearms.

At the Save America rally Wednesday, Trump told thousands of audience members at the nation’s capital that “we will never concede” and promoted a display of strength from his supporters. 

“What I find interesting is that many companies piled on at the very last minute — should it have taken an attack on the Capitol Hill dome to take action?” said Douglas.

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