Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) is making such a huge mistake in its censorship of what it is identifying as "alt-right" accounts, it could end up with the collapse of the company.
The problem Twitter faces is millions of Americans, to one degree or another, are sympathetic and supportive of some of the elements championed by the alt-right, and there is no way at this time to sort through the numerous viewpoints and worldviews expressed recently in the voting booths, which brought Donald Trump the Presidency.
I'm not saying Americans are self-consciously supporting what the media calls the alt-right (many aren't even aware they exist), what I am saying is the movement is riding the populist urge now residing in millions of American citizens, and they, for the most part, aren't able to distinguish the differences between what some may dub moderates and hard core supporters of the populist, nationalist movement now not only sweeping across America, but much of Europe.
Most Americans rightly view the social changes as them against the globalists and elitists, which are viewed as trying to control their lives through international agreements that don't have their best interests in mind. That, more than anything, is behind the growing resistance, and to lump it together with the alt-right is a disaster that will destroy, or at least significantly erode, any company like Twitter, which can't afford to lose a huge user base.
Alternatives like Gab are already emerging, and even though opponents to the populist movement are attempting to paint it with the broad brush stroke of the alt-right, the truth is people want to be able to engage in lively and combative arguments without fear of being censored by big business. This is a big problem for Twitter, which rapidly being seen by a growing number of people as a platform for the left.
This is why it may look at first that Twitter is taking the high ground here and making a sound business decision, but like the mainstream media and clueless polling companies, they got it all wrong with Donald Trump, partially because companies like Twitter do suppress free speech, which can intimidate a lot of people into saying they aren't going to vote for Trump (or other things that go against political correctness), which gives the impression of a majority lining up with a specific candidate, cause or belief, when in fact under the surface the silent majority remain hidden.
They came out to vote for Trump, and now will vote with their feet, or guess you could say fingers with their smartphones and computers, by abandoning Twitter because of its perceived antagonistic view of millions of American conservatives and others on the right that are being lumped together as one.
The bottom line is America has changed drastically over the last couple of years, and investors not understanding this in regard to specific holdings, could get clobbered. I think Twitter is going to be one of those companies to experience that in the not-too-distant future, because it already has a weak business model that would continue to struggle either way.
Coming out against a significant portion of the U.S. population isn't going to help it.
Freedom of speech and Twitter
I want to clarify quickly that Twitter has no obligation as a company to enforce free speech. Americans have a rich tradition of free speech, but at the corporate level it can be suppressed without legal consequences.
The problem is when the suppression of one political viewpoint or worldview is suppressed, the political pendulum will also swing the other way. Those angry from suppressed by speech censorship, can quickly retaliate when their time has come. In the election of Donald Trump, that time has arrived.
For that reason alone Twitter is making a huge mistake. It is misreading the times we're now in. It's not understanding that it would be better to allow free speech to flow and its platform to grow with it. Calling differences of opinion and outlook "hate speech," is a sure way to alienate a huge, potential user base.
Worse, lumping many of those on the right as the same as the alt-right, will result in a huge reaction that in my view, could take Twitter down, or at least make it so small as to be insignificant.
Just like on the left that thought Hillary Clinton would easily win the presidency discovered, what is reported in the mainstream media can no longer be trusted. Everyone had her ahead and winning. The same is true for conservative and ultra-conservative Americans who are a far more powerful force and larger in numbers than portrayed, and the continual attack and suppression of their views is only going to make them more determined to be heard. That's not good news for Twitter, which is banning many people that aren't considered radical in any way by the right.
Taking a stand against the silent majority in America is at best stupid, and at worse, self-destructive. Twitter is making a bad business decision here, and its failure to distinguish between true haters and those representing the views of millions of potential customers, means it has a management problem.
After all, the winners in business are those that most clearly read the market. Twitter deals with public opinion. Misreading the impetus behind public opinion and relegating it to hate speech, using a broad brush stroke, is a recipe for disaster.
What is happening in America
The reason Donald Trump is the president-elect is because millions of Americans believed their voices were being suppressed and not heard, and that the current political leadership was antagonistic of their beliefs.
Not only was that concern and frustration expressed in the voting booth, these millions of people are still mad, and are more than ready and willing to punish corporations that continue to attack who they are and their way of life.
Investors need to understand what's behind the populist move or they're going to get crushed with some of their holdings.
For example, on the protectionist side, Ford (NYSE:F) already changed its mind on moving jobs to Mexico, and is instead going to manufacture its Lincoln SUVs in Kentucky. This is good for Americans, but it may not be good for Ford investors.
It will now cost Ford more to manufacture its vehicles, which means some of the margin and cash flow will be lower than it would have been if the business was being done in Mexico.
In other words, we have to closely look at what an American-first policy will look like as it applies to our investments. Whether we agree with these things or not isn't the issue. The changes are already happening before Trump takes over the presidency, and we need to look quickly at what that may mean for our holdings.
As far as all of this relates to the market, there are going to be a lot of changes over the next several years. Fossil fuels will be back in favor, and alternative fuels probably won't receive the attention and backing they got under the Obama administration. Agreeing with it or not won't matter. This is going to be the world we face, and we have to honestly look at the forces now shaping America, and many other countries in the West. Have we already forgotten what drove Brexit? They are alive and well in other European countries as well, and before they're through, the political and corporate landscape will be much different than it has been over the last decade.
Alternative to Twitter
Over the last several months an alternative to Twitter has emerged called Gab. Mainstream and leftist media outlets are already trying to make it appear as a place where racists are allowed to spew their hatred, even though it's nothing more or less than a place for free speech advocates to engage in debate and ideas the left has tried to suppress.
If you do a search on Gab, you'll quickly discover there is nothing good being said about it, even though many people unassociated with the alt-right, or possibly not even aware of it, use the service. The major example there is a growing base of users from India engage in debate on local issues in their own regions. There are others that do the same without any association with the alt-right.
The real attacks on Gab are because leftists in social media are losing their power to control the narrative there, so they're trying to crush Gab before it becomes a force strong enough to take significant market share from Twitter.
Also part of the battle is the editing done by Wikipedia workers, which has attacked conservatives and other not aligning with their views. That has resulted in the building of an Wikipedia alternative called Infogalactic, which has been soaring in usage, and also provides a more robust tool of checks and balances which disallows much of the mischief editors can engage in to change the facts and truths about people, ideas and events they don't approve of.
In the world we now live in, there is no way for gatekeepers to suppress the ideas and viewpoints of others. If they attempt to do so, there will quickly be an alternative raised up to compete against it.
Think in terms of how Fox News came to be so popular and the market leader. Whether Rupurt Murdoch, or those who built it agreed with the outlook of the overall channel, they definitely saw the need for a voice to be raised to cater to those more conservatively minded.
Now that populists are stretching their muscles and growing in influence and numbers, any company attempting to paint them as racist, sexist, Nazis, and the plethora of other terms being applied to them, will find themselves being under extreme pressure.
This burgeoning movement is just getting going, and the use of these types of insults, which intimidated many of them in the past, no longer has the effect and control factor it used to have.
Twitter has totally misread what is happening in America, and labeling the powerful surge in populism as engaging in hate speech because they don't agree with the narrative of the left, is going to end up severely hampering the company.
The idea of suppressing the speech and ideas of those of one political or religious persuasion, and supporting another, won't work for Twitter.
It's a social media platform. If you aren't allowed to express yourself freely, and the company is clueless as to what is behind the social forces now driving the country, it means it either needs to get rid of its leadership, or relegate itself to a shrinking portion of the population.
Suppressing free speech may give the impression of overwhelming numbers and domination, but as the election of Donald Trump to the presidency proves, it only keeps some people publicly quiet, while they wait to have their say at the voting booth.
When that voting booth is how we spend our time and dollars, in reference to a company like Twitter, consumers will bring their speech and views to platforms willing to let them express them.
Tying in those feeling under-represented by their government to hate, is going to down as one of the most irresponsible and stupid things a business could do. Twitter is now taking that low road, and the worse thing is, it believes it is doing so with the majority of consumers behind them. All it's doing is once again driving the ideas and thoughts of people underground, only to emerge when an alternative platform like Gab offers them what they want: a place to freely express their ideas without thought police disallowing it.
The formerly disenfranchised have spoken, and those companies not understanding what they've said are going to come under heavy pressure.
No matter what investors think about this, the reality is the world is rapidly changing, and suppressing that change by banning public discourse doesn't change the reality of it. Twitter will find this out quickly Invest accordingly.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.