Twitter Doubles Down on Decision to Ban Donald Trump

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Posted: Jan 14, 2021 1:00 AM
Twitter Doubles Down on Decision to Ban Donald Trump

Source: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

President Donald J. Trump is banned on Twitter. He’s banned on Facebook. A sitting US president has been de-platformed over the chaos that erupted on the Hill last week. He’s been impeached again for inciting the riot that Democrats say amounted to insurrection. The "Save America" rally was held on January 6, the same day as the congressional certification of the 2020 Electoral College results. Pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Building. Five people died. Yet, the FBI now says that this might have been a pre-planned event, which undercuts the Democratic narrative that Trump was totally at fault for the chaos.

Trump was probably going to be banned from Twitter no matter what after he left office. That was a given. In fact, Twitter was sort of coy about that move as we entered the final weeks of his presidency. This fiasco just accelerated the plan. The slow bleeding of conservatives on these platforms became a rapid firebombing. Twitter’s Jack Dorsey published a lengthy thread on the decision to purge the president of the United States.

“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban Donald Trump from Twitter, or how we got here. After a clear warning, we’d take this action, we made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter,” he wrote.

“I believe this was the right decision for Twitter. We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety,” he added.

He also acknowledged that this power to ban, which ultimately stifles free speech, is an awesome power the company has, which was brought further under scrutiny when other internet providers began purging conservatives from their platform. Jack says this wasn’t a coordinated move. I’ll leave you to debate that position in the comments below, but skepticism is at all-time highs:

That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications. While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.

Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation. They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.

The check and accountability on this power has always been the fact that a service like Twitter is one small part of the larger public conversation happening across the internet. If folks do not agree with our rules and enforcement, they can simply go to another internet service.

This concept was challenged last week when a number of foundational internet tool providers also decided not to host what they found dangerous. I do not believe this was coordinated. More likely: companies came to their own conclusions or were emboldened by the actions of others.

This moment in time might call for this dynamic, but over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet. A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same.

Yes, we all need to look critically at inconsistencies of our policy and enforcement. Yes, we need to look at how our service might incentivize distraction and harm. Yes, we need more transparency in our moderation operations. All this can’t erode a free and open global internet.

We’re at a point now where should we consider regulating these companies. They’re private, yes — but in many ways, they’re not. It’s not just a platform to express opinions. It’s now interwoven in the marketplace. How many companies use social media to expand their brands, increase their presence, and nab a bigger slice of the market? It’s the lifeblood for some businesses. It’s also a major hub for news. It’s a quasi-public utility. De-platforming, banning, and other forms of censorship are creating a de facto litmus test regarding who can earn a living in this country and who is barred from it solely based on political ideology. Only liberals can make a living, but conservatives can’t; that’s how this reads for many. And liberals have their own issues with these companies as well. At heart, both the Left and the Right hate these tech companies in their own way. They have too much power and that’s been the case for a while now. It’s time to rein them in — big league.