Twitter co-founder explains why Donald Trump was elected and people are becoming 'dumber'

'It is the quality of the information we consume that is reinforcing dangerous beliefs'

Aatif Sulleyman
Thursday 14 September 2017 14:18
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Twitter co-founder Evan Williams has denied claims that the micro-blogging site was the main reason Donald Trump won last year’s US Presidential election.

Earlier this year, Mr Trump, a prolific Tweeter, credited the social network for helping his cause. “I think maybe I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Twitter,” he said.

At the time, Mr Williams responded to the comment by issuing an apology. “It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that,” the former Twitter CEO said in May. “If it’s true that he wouldn’t be President if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”

However, he now believes the media played a bigger role in Mr Trump’s election than Twitter.

“The much bigger issue is not Donald Trump using Twitter, period, that got him elected, even if he says so,” Mr Williams told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “It is the quality of the information we consume that is reinforcing dangerous beliefs and isolating people and limiting people’s open-mindedness in respect for truth.”

He believes the “ad-driven media” is “dumbing people down” in pursuit of clicks.

“There’s a media ecosystem that is supported and thrives on attention, period. And that is what’s making us all dumber not smarter, and Donald Trump is a symptom of that, but it’s not his use of Twitter, and I don’t Twitter is at all the worst case of this.

“It’s the ad-driven media that churns stuff out on a minute-by-minute basis, and their only measure is whether or not someone clicks on it so they can, because that’s the only way they can make money.

“And therefore quoting Trump’s tweets or quoting the latest, stupidest thing that any political candidate or anyone else says is an effective way to exploit people’s base instincts and that is dumbing the entire world down.”

Mr Williams says that Medium, the publishing platform he now oversees, is different.

“What we are trying to do is give people an alternative. There needs to be information we can trust, which means it has to be funded not by advertising alone. Because that distorts everything.”

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