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Net Neutrality Panic and Twitter Turmoil: Week One in Trump's Digital Impact

Tim Maytom

ajit pai fcc
Net neutrality advocates have raised major concerns over President Donald Trump's nomination for a new head of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the government agency which regulates the telecoms industry.

Ajit Pai, President Trump's nomination, has voted against strengthening net neutrality laws in the past, and is already an FCC commissioner, meaning he can be appointed directly into the role without need for a Senate confirmation hearing.

"Ajit Pai has been on the wrong side of just about every major issue that has come before the FCC during his tenure," said Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, a communications advocacy group. "He's never met a mega-merger he didn't like or a public safeguard he didn't try to undermine."

Net neutrality is a movement that says all traffic on the internet should be treated equally, and internet service providers should not be allowed to charge more for data-heavy services like video streaming or cloud storage.

Supporters of net neutrality, including Google and Facebook, believe that net neutrality is essential for ensuring competition among online services, and preventing monopolies, but Republican members of the FCC have typically voted against strengthening the laws governing net neutrality, seeing it as unnecessary government interference in private enterprise.

Following President Trump's election win, Pai was quoted as saying that "during the Trump administration, we will shift from playing defence at the FCC to going on offence. We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation."

jack tweet on potusTwitter Criticised Over @POTUS Migration
The FCC nomination wasn't the only digital controversy associated with President Trump this week. Twitter found itself at the end of users' ire when they were automatically 'forced' to follow Donald Trump on the social network.

Following President Trump's inauguration, his staff took control of the @POTUS (President of the United States) Twitter account, which used to be used by former President Barack Obama, updating it with President Trump's details, image and more.

Similar changes happened to the @FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) and @VP (Vice President) accounts on Twitter, which were handed over to Melania Trump and Mike Pence respectively.

Many people who had followed the account during President Obama's tenure were not interested in continuing now it was operated by Trump's staff, and complained using the service to Twitter's customer support.

The next day, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took to the service to apologise for two issues that had complicated the account transition; some people who had followed @POTUS44 (Obama's account) had also been set to follow @POTUS, and some who had unfollowed @POTUS in the past were mistakenly re-added. Overall, around 560,000 people were believed to have been affected.

"This was a mistake, it's wasn't right, we own it, and we apologise. No excuses," said Dorsey in his final tweet on the subject.

nps twitter accountNational Parks Service Banned From Tweeting After Inauguration Retweets
Finally, the US National Park Service was banned from using Twitter for a brief period over Friday and Saturday, after retweeting two posts that compared the crowds attending President Trump's inauguration with those at President Obama's 2009 inauguration.

After retweeting the posts on Friday, both of which originated from nongovernment accounts, the agency stopped social media activity until mid-morning Saturday.

"Out of an abundance of caution, while we investigated the situation involving these tweets, the Department of Interior's communications team determined that it was important to stand down Twitter activity," said Tom Crosson, a spokesperson for the National Park Service.

According to CNN, a representative of the Trump administration ordered the shutdown, circulating an email to Department of Interior employees (which includes National Parks Service workers) on Friday.

Upon resuming activity on the social network, the National Parks Service apologised for the "mistaken RTs", which were deleted from the account shortly after being retweeted.