Mozilla says tech companies have to go much further than just deplatforming Trump

The boss of Mozilla, the software organisation behind the Firefox browser, has spoken out about tech companies deplatforming Donald Trump - saying it's not going far enough.

Since the deadly storming of the US Capitol last week, Trump has been banned or suspended by multiple platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Reddit and Pinterest.

In a blog post, Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker says Trump's actions have been "reprehensible" - but notes that "the rampant use of the internet to foment violence and hate, and reinforce white supremacy is about more than any one personality".

Baker says the attack in Washington DC was "the culmination of a four-year disinformation campaign" by the former reality TV star.

"Donald Trump is certainly not the first politician to exploit the architecture of the internet in this way, and he won't be the last. We need solutions that don't start after untold damage has been done," writes Baker.

"Changing these dangerous dynamics requires more than just the temporary silencing or permanent removal of bad actors from social media platforms."

The removal of Trump from various online platforms has been sharply criticised by many people who say it is anti-free speech and sets a dangerous precedent.

Baker agrees there is a "critical" question around when it is right to deplatform a head of state and asks if the power to do so should rest solely with tech companies.

But she insists that Silicon Valley help "build a better" internet to prevent the spread of extremism and disinformation.

Baker lists four "precise and specific" actions tech companies should carry out as follows:

  • Reveal who is paying for advertisements, how much they are paying and who is being targeted
  • Commit to meaningful transparency of platform algorithms so we know how and what content is being amplified, to whom, and the associated impact
  • Turn on by default the tools to amplify factual voices over disinformation
  • Work with independent researchers to facilitate in-depth studies of the platforms' impact on people and our societies, and what we can do to improve things.

The conversation around social media's role in the attack on the US Capitol and the resulting deplatforming of Trump is set to dominate his final days as President.