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The Danger of Deplatforming Trump

Efforts to remove Donald Trump’s online platform have been widely praised as crucial to mitigating the risk of further incitement of violence. But recent psychological research suggests that excluding Trump from social media will not make America safer – and could even increase the risk of violence.

LONDON – Social-media platforms are finally turning on Donald Trump. Since the US president incited a violent attack on the Capitol on January 6 that left five people dead, platforms ranging from Twitter (long his preferred megaphone) to Shopify (on which he sold merchandise) have banned him. And Parler – the unmoderated platform that has become the new darling of the far right, and Trump’s likely refuge – has temporarily shut down after Amazon booted the site from its web-hosting services.

Efforts to remove Trump’s digital platform have been widely praised as crucial to mitigating “the risk of further incitement of violence,” as Twitter’s statement put it. But will excluding Trump from social media really make America safer? Recent psychological research suggests that the answer is no. After all, narcissists do not respond well to social exclusion.

To be sure, there is considerable debate over whether that label fits Trump. Section 7.3 of the American Psychiatric Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics – commonly known as the “Goldwater rule” – is clear: Clinicians should refrain from opining publicly on the mental health of public figures whom they have not personally examined.

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