Williams was attending the Collision Tech conference in Toronto, and during the interview, he was asked how President Donald Trump has affected the political discourse on the social media giant, especially since he uses Twitter as a bully pulpit to bash his opponents and spread misinformation, Mediaite reports.
But for Williams, the negative effects of Trump’s tweets on political discourse are “trivial compared to the effect of the broader media.”
And he noted that while Trump shows “genius” in manipulating the platform, traditional media outlets frequently blame tech companies for polarization and don’t stop to consider what part they play in it.
“The vast majority of the electorate is not on Twitter reading Trump’s tweets and being convinced by that,” Williams said. “What they’re convinced much more by is the destructive power of Fox News, which is much, much more powerful and much more destructive than Twitter.”
One has to wonder if the talking heads at Fox News ever reflect on this. When Laura Ingraham fear-mongers about immigrants, does she even realize the harm she causes? When Tucker Carlson calls Democrats racists for attacking white nationalism, does he ever even listen to himself?
This isn’t lost on Williams, who knows the mainstream media isn’t holding up a mirror to itself.
“Why the media’s not critiquing itself I think is kind of obvious, and it’s very easy to blame the tech platforms,” Williams said in the CNN interview. “But it’s an ecosystem and the traditional media companies that have benefitted financially from Trump very much outweigh the tech companies.”
Williams, who stepped down from his CEO position at the company in 2010, said it was “hard to say” if Trump’s continual tweets were good for business.
“The fact that the President is on there and causing a lot of noise, it certainly directs more attention,” he said. “But it certainly doesn’t direct more users or … more money.”
Williams now helms Medium, an online publishing platform, which he says is a network for longer and more in-depth content. And since Medium is an open platform, it runs into abuse from time to time. Especially last month when a post alleged sexual assault against Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. The post was published on right-wing sites before being debunked.
“[The blog post] looked a little fishy but it was serious allegations, and we want to not jump to any conclusion,” Williams said.
Medium investigated the post and then removed it.
But dealing with those who post misleading or false information is part of what people have to contend with when running a platform, he added.
“I think tapping the world’s brains and getting the perspective of millions of people and letting the best ideas float to the top has always been our mission and our ideals, so with that comes a cost,” he explained. “It comes at a cost of people trying to game that system and spread false information and abuse it. We have a lot of safeguards against that and they’re not perfect.”
So it’s comforting to know that perhaps someday when Trump fades away, his tweets will too.
Featured image courtesy of the video above