On the morning of January 8, President Donald Trump, with one remaining strike before being at risk of permanent suspension from Twitter, tweets twice.
2. 6:46 am: “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
3. 7:44 am: “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
4. For years, Twitter had resisted calls both internal and external to ban Trump on the grounds that blocking a world leader from the platform or removing their controversial tweets would hide important information that people should be able to see and debate.
5. “Our mission is to provide a forum that enables people to be informed and to engage their leaders directly,” the company wrote in 2019. Twitter’s aim was to “protect the public’s right to hear from their leaders and to hold them to account.”
6. But after January 6, as @mtaibbi and @shellenbergermd have documented, pressure grew, both inside and outside of Twitter, to ban Trump.
7. There were dissenters inside Twitter. “Maybe because I am from China,” said one employee on January 7, “I deeply understand how censorship can destroy the public conversation.”
8. But voices like that one appear to have been a distinct minority within the company. Across Slack channels, many Twitter employees were upset that Trump hadn’t been banned earlier.
9. After January 6, Twitter employees organized to demand their employer ban Trump. “There is a lot of employee advocacy happening,” said one Twitter employee.
10. “We have to do the right thing and ban this account,” said one staffer. It’s “pretty obvious he’s going to try to thread the needle of incitement without violating the rules,” said another.
11. In the early afternoon of January 8, The Washington Post published an open letter signed by over 300 Twitter employees to CEO Jack Dorsey demanding Trump’s ban. “We must examine Twitter’s complicity in what President-Elect Biden has rightly termed insurrection.”
12. But the Twitter staff assigned to evaluate tweets quickly concluded that Trump had *not* violated Twitter’s policies.“I think we’d have a hard time saying this is incitement,” wrote one staffer.
13. “It’s pretty clear he’s saying the ‘American Patriots’ are the ones who voted for him and not the terrorists (we can call them that, right?) from Wednesday.”
14. Another staffer agreed: “Don’t see the incitement angle here.”
15. “I also am not seeing clear or coded incitement in the DJT tweet,” wrote Anika Navaroli, a Twitter policy official. “I’ll respond in the elections channel and say that our team has assessed and found no vios”—or violations—“for the DJT one.”
16. She does just that: “as an fyi, Safety has assessed the DJT Tweet above and determined that there is no violation of our policies at this time.”
17. (Later, Navaroli would testify to the House Jan. 6 committee:“For months I had been begging and anticipating and attempting to raise the reality that if nothing—if we made no intervention into what I saw occuring, people were going to die.”)
18. Next, Twitter’s safety team decides that Trump’s 7:44 am ET tweet is also not in violation. They are unequivocal: “it’s a clear no vio. It’s just to say he’s not attending the inauguration”
19. To understand Twitter’s decision to ban Trump, we must consider how Twitter deals with other heads of state and political leaders, including in Iran, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.
20. In June 2018, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted, “#Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen.” Twitter neither deleted the tweet nor banned the Ayatollah.
21. In October 2020, the former Malaysian Prime Minister said it was “a right” for Muslims to “kill millions of French people.” Twitter deleted his tweet for “glorifying violence,” but he remains on the platform. The tweet below was taken from the Wayback Machine:
THREAD: THE TWITTER FILES PART FIVE.— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) December 12, 2022
THE REMOVAL OF TRUMP FROM TWITTER.
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