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Perspective: The ‘Donald Trump Blocker’ iPhone app doesn’t work, but that’s a good thing for America

Donald Trump

An iPhone displaying a Los Angeles Times article about Donald Trump

(Dexter Thomas )

Want to ban Donald Trump from your digital life? There’s an app for that.

After Donald Trump said he wanted to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., interest has skyrocketed in an innovative app called “Trump Trump” that promises to block all Trump-related content from your phone.

The app, which has been out for some time and is currently free in the iOS App Store, works as an add-on to the Safari browser. It doesn’t do anything for other browsers such as Google Chrome, and it can’t prevent Trump from popping up in Facebook or Twitter. But if you open links using Safari, it promises to provide a Trump-free browsing experience. 

Analysis: Ignoring Donald Trump didn't work for Republicans. What now?

The only trouble: It doesn’t actually work.

In tests of a few sites that tend to feature heavy Donald-related content, I found that Trump blockage was spotty, at best. I had some luck on the New York Times site, which blocked two Trump articles – but still left a headline saying “Trump and Muslims.”

It worked admirably on Breitbart.com. Pictures and images were completely stripped. But there is a trade-off for those who rely on Breitbart for insight on the world – without Trump, the front page had almost no content. Headlines are completely blank, leaving only the author names behind.

Breitbart.com and the New York Times. For each set, on the left is the site in Chrome, without the "Trump Trump" blocker enabled. On the right, the site in Safari, with the blocker enabled..


I tried the app on the Los Angeles Times website, but it only seemed to block two out of four articles with “Trump” in the headline. Images were removed, but it did let me view Trump content. On the Washington Post site, it stripped some Trump images, and made some links unclickable, but left plenty of mentions of Trump himself.

In other words, the app isn't worth your time.

Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. For each set, on the left is the site in Chrome, without the "Trump Trump" blocker enabled. On the right, the site in Safari, with the blocker enabled.



But maybe it’s better this way.

Donald Trump is not a banner ad that we can wave away with clever software. And though he might go away if we ignore him, his supporters will not. Some Republicans have attempted to distance the party from him, but others, like Sen. Ted Cruz, seem to be afraid to alienate his fans. 

Ignoring Trump is a luxury that many simply don’t have. Latinos must watch Trump closely, as he has said that Mexico is shipping rapists over the border. Muslims must mark his every move, as he has suggested that they be forced to register in a national database.

Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous not because it is outlandish, but because it legitimizes biases and suspicions that many Americans have. Trump could have the effect of radicalizing someone who is already on the edge. In fact, this process may have already started.

In October, two men beat a man with a metal pipe and urinated on him. When police asked them why, they said that it was because he was an “illegal immigrant.”

Donald Trump was right,” they said.

Trump said that he did not condone that beating, but he was much more positive about a crowd of people who beat up a protester at one of his rallies. “Maybe he should have been roughed up,” Trump said.

Usually, I get annoyed with software that doesn’t do what it advertises. Even when apps are free, I don’t like having my time wasted by buggy software.

But this time, I’m glad that “Trump Trump” doesn’t work – because we shouldn’t be able to ignore reality.

 

Follow me @dexdigi for more on the intersection of culture and the Internet.

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