In an interesting development, which echoes global feeling in the light of the current unrest in the United States, US President Donald Trump appears as the first result of suggested accounts when searching “racist” on Twitter’s people search, it emerged Wednesday. The result, reported by the British news outlet The Independent and verified by AFP, highlights the intense discord around the president, and also mirrors public opinion of Trump in the wake of the recent unrests over the murder of George Floyd, as Trump has been labelled racist by Twitter users.
Trump has more than 80 million followers, although there is much dispute about how many of them are genuine, active human Twitter users.
Analysts said the news suggests Trump opponents, more than critics of any other Twitter account, have been labeling him as racist, although the social media giant itself did not confirm this was the case.
i don't care what color your skin is, if you support donald trump you are a fool, and our views DO NOT align. Donald Trump is racist, fascist, and unfit for office. https://t.co/s1RssIK7kn— Bassnectar (@bassnectar) June 3, 2020
Trump has been facing heightened criticism for his comments during protests over police brutality but has always dismissed suggestions that he is racist.
Twitter offered little in the way of explanation, pointing out only that its search algorithms may reflect what is happening on the platform.
Trump, in the midst of a heated war with social media over what he claims is bias, recently signed an executive order calling for more oversight of internet platforms, a move which could prove difficult to enforce.
How was Trump labelled racist by Twitter users?
Greg Sterling, a contributing editor at the website Search Engine Land, said the result suggests that “so many people are using the words ‘racist’ or ‘racism’ to respond to or describe Donald Trump, or there’s a concerted effort to associate Trump’s account with those terms.”
Evidently, it is also possible that a large number of supporters defending Trump from charges of racism would also use the word ‘racist’ in their replies.
Searching 'racist' on Twitter brings up Trump as top result: U.S. President Donald Trump appears as the first result of suggested accounts when users type "racist" into Twitter's people search, it emerged Wednesday. The result, reported by the… https://t.co/WKoaAyVyfz— Japan Today News (@JapanToday) June 4, 2020
Sterling said Twitter’s ranking algorithm for individual tweets “uses a variety of signals, including how recently the tweet was published, its relevance (personalization), user engagement with the tweet, the presence of rich media (such as video or images) and several other variables.”
The analyst noted however that in 2007, a concerted effort known as “Google bombing” was able to manipulate search results for then-president George W. Bush to associate him with the term “miserable failure” on the search engine until the flaw was corrected.
Kjerstin Thorson, a Michigan State University politics and social media professor, said it would require a detailed analysis to understand the reasons for the association of Trump and racism.
But Thorson said “it’s not unlikely this could be an accurate representation of what people are saying” on Twitter and that bias is probably not a factor.
“The platforms have gone out of their way to avoid any appearance of bias,” she said.
Trump labelled as racist: background and history
For over three years President Trump has stoked and encouraged his base supporters. His single fundamental attraction to his base is stoking hatred of other Americans: hatred of blacks, minorities, women, intellectuals, and anyone who does share the same views as him. He has always appealed to the very worst of human emotions.
He loves his rallies, where he openly encourages his fans to beat anyone who opposes him, to assault news reporters. His tweets are a constant barrage of vicious attacks on whomever he is annoyed with at the moment. His supporters love him because he does not pretend to be a loving, tolerant, magnanimous, civilized leader. They love him because he is proud to be vulgar and nasty, to be openly racist, and to advocate violence against his enemies, most of whom are fellow Americans.
Some of Trump’s “enemies” are selected just for grandstanding, but his racism runs deep. In 1973 the U.S. Justice Department prosecuted Trump for violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968[i]. Applications of prospective tenants for Trump apartments were coded with “C” for colored. Trump counter-sued and eventually the case was settled out of court, with Trump promising to do better.
Trump has no interest in solving problems — he exploits them to stir up his base. This is his modus operandi. His immediate response to the demonstrations was to provoke and encourage a deadly response by police: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk