Just a few days ago, Twitter banned outgoing President Donald Trump, taking away his favorite distraction. While many welcomed the move as a preventative step for future violence following the unprecedented attack on the US Capitol, others condemned it as an overreach.
Not all of the latter were necessarily Trump supporters either; German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the move “problematic,” a sentiment shared by some who worry about the power held by major social media companies. The fact that Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat implemented restrictions of their own only added fuel to the fire.
Today Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took to his platform to elaborate on the reasoning behind the move, as well as reflect on its potential implications.
I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump 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. Was this correct?
— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
It’s a long thread of tweets that you can read here, but to summarize:
- Dorsey says he believes Twitter made the right choice as it faced “an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all our actions on public safety.”
- But he also recognizes that the move has “significant ramifications” and that “a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.”
- Dorsey further acknowledges the ban could set a “dangerous” precedent for “the power an individual or corporation has” over public discourse. While Trump could move to other platforms, the ban was made more controversial by the fact Trump was barred by other “foundational” social networks as well.
- On the other hand, he says he does not believe the ban on other platforms was coordinated, but rather that these companies came to their own conclusions.
- He reiterated a 2019 announcement that Twitter is funding a Bitcoin-inspired “decentralized standard for social media” called Bluesky.
Chances are Trump’s Twitter ban will be debated for years to come.
Many have argued Trump has incited violence many times over, and indeed some on the left have been calling for the President’s ban for years (including yours truly). But the ban can also be seen to bolster claims that social media companies have been silencing conservative speech, claims that the the majority of Republican-leaning Americans appear to believe, but which have little evidence to back them up.
Trump’s ban is unlikely to be the last time social media giants will be faced with similar decisions. It’s important to ensure these platforms can be held accountable for their choices, whether by regulation or additional transparency in their moderation processes. Even for those of us who supported Trump’s ban, it’s important to recognize the dramatic power large social media companies can have to create (and prevent) historic events so we can make sure that power isn’t abused.