The GuardianThe Guardian

Elon, Twitter is not the town square – it’s just a private shop. The square belongs to us all

By John Naughton

01 May 2022 · 4 min read

On Friday 8 January 2021, Twitter kicked Donald Trump off its platform and an eerie calm enveloped parts of our global public sphere. Depriving him of his online megaphone was a compelling demonstration of how a tech platform had acquired an awesome power – the ability effectively to silence an elected president.

But what kind of power is it really? Many years ago, in a landmark book, Power: A Radical View, the sociologist Steven Lukes wrote that power comes in three varieties: the ability to stop people doing what they want to do; the ability to compel them to do what they don’t want to do; and the ability to shape the way they think.

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