Back in 2016 Kim Kardashian became the inaugural winner of The Webby Awards’ ‘Break the Internet’ award, having – as they put it – “shaped our understanding of how someone or something can draw the popular attention of internet users”. One nomination for this year’s competition could be the outgoing president of the US, whose ban from Twitter and other social media platforms after riots in Washington DC this week has sparked further controversy, and may really have broken the internet.
Like Ms Kardashian, Donald Trump had built up an enormous following on social media, racking up 88.3m. And in many ways, his tweets define his presidency: incoherent (remember “covfefe”?), often confrontational, and loved and loathed in equal measure. But for all the criticism that his enthusiasm for Twitter was unbecoming of the leader of the free world, social media sits squarely at the heart of all modern political campaigning. In fact, a combined $200m was spent by candidates on Facebook advertising during the US presidential election, accelerating a trend that first captured attention after the EU referendum and the Cambridge Analytica saga. A combined $81m was spent by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016 – far more than was estimated to have been spent by Russia to help Trump ‘steal’ that election.
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