After Trump, is American democracy doomed by populism?

It is too early to tell how effective the suspension of Trump’s accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms will be. It has certainly impeded his ability to speak directly to his followers over the coming weeks. But over the course of the next four years, he could adopt new ways of communicating with them.

At the same time, these decisions have also raised a number of risks. It is now imaginable that the internet will slowly break into two pieces—or a whole chaotic array of shards. On Twitter and Facebook, Americans with different political beliefs sorted themselves into their own echo chambers but at least shared the same platform. In the future, parts of the populist right will attempt to build platforms of their own. This could end up accelerating rather than slowing their radicalization.

The moves are also likely to empower dictators abroad. As opposition leaders such as Russia’s Alexey Navalny have warned, the suspensions provide a perfect excuse for oppressive governments to censor democratic challengers. If major political figures in the United States are banned from using social media platforms, the country will find it more difficult to condemn similar bans abroad even when they are pursued for much more cynical reasons.

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