By KATE ANGUS
On Friday, January 27th, President Trump issued an executive order severely restricting immigration into the United States. The order bars people from seven predominantly Muslim countries – Iran, Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and Syria–from entering the United States for 90 days. It also bans refugees from entering for 120 days, and bans Syrian refugees indefinitely, as reported by the New York Times. The order was coincidentally issued on Holocaust Memorial Day, which only heightened the overwhelmingly negative backlash from the public, including tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter.
In an amazing grassroots effort from a number of Twitter employees, over $500,000 was raised to donate to the ACLU in response to President Trump’s controversial executive order. According to Buzzfeed News, who were able to contact several employees involved, on the evening of February 1st, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey caught wind of the donation and announced in a company-wide email that he would match the amount. A total of $1.59 million was donated to the ACLU to challenge the widely contested executive order.
This is not the first time Dorsey has shown his dissatisfaction with the new administration. On January 28th, the day after the order was issued, Dorsey tweeted from his personal account, “The Executive Order’s humanitarian and economic impact is real and upsetting. We benefit from what refugees and immigrants bring to the U.S,” and his feed has consisted of almost entirely immigration reform-related content since the order was issued. The company itself tweeted on January 28th in an official statement, “Twitter is built by immigrants of all religions. We stand for and with them, always.”
St. Lawrence student and Twitter user Anna Elston ’20, sees the donation as an inspiring act of social justice and hopes “other companies will follow” Twitter’s lead to act upon their displeasure with the current administration and “care about the immigrant population.” Kit Bruen ’20 also supports the donation. “It gives me hope,” she says. “Call me an idealist, but grassroots activism is what makes this country great.”
We reached out to Dr. Stephen Barnard, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology here at St. Lawrence, to discuss what this act political activism may mean for social media over the next four years: “Tech companies have been vocal in their opposition for a deregulated (“non-neutral”) Internet for years. I suspect that voice will only grow louder as Trump’s FCC chair moves to undo net neutrality [and] as the Trump administration continues to pursue its agenda.” As for Twitter specifically, Dr. Barnard is not surprised at their bold political move given its past in social revolutions. “Twitter has long had an interest in supporting social justice and democratic initiatives—for example, the Arab Spring, #BlackLivesMatter, etc.– so in many ways, this isn’t at all a departure from their previous stances.”
In regard to how the new administration may respond to the donation and the likely continuation of political activism via tech industries and social media, Barnard explains that “you may see the Trump administration amp up its rhetoric about being victimized [by] the media, Silicon Valley, and even Twitter.” “But they may also end up walking back parts of the of the policy given such a unified, capital-rich voice,” Barnard adds. Indeed, after peaceful protests across the nation and online in opposition to the order, CNN reported on January 30th that a federal judge ruled that immigrants in transit to the United States will not be deported. Is this a reflection of the power of the media in the four years to come? Dr. Barnard was wary: “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see”.