Stunning new disclosures from the Twitter Files yesterday show how the company banning President Trump two days after Jan. 6 – against the recommendation of multiple executives and its safety unit – was not justified.
The newest documents, reported by journalist Bari Weiss, make clear how the previous management was willing to toss out its own rules and used two Trump tweets on the morning of Jan. 8, 2021, as a pretext for his permanent suspension.
The first tweet: “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!!!”
The second tweet said he would not be attending the inauguration.
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Here is what Twitter executives told their colleagues:
“I don’t see the incitement of fear.”
“I think we’d have a hard time saying this is incitement…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.”
“Don’t see the incitement angle here.”
Anika Collier Navaroli, a policy official dealing with Twitter’s content moderation rules, wrote: “as an fyi, Safety has assessed the DJT Tweet above and determined that there is no violation of our policies at this time.”
Ironically, Navaroli, who is Black, later testified before the Jan. 6 committee that she felt Twitter should have acted much sooner to ban Trump because “if we made no intervention into what I saw occurring, people were going to die.”
In banning Trump on Jan. 8, Twitter said the two tweets were an incitement to violence, casting aside the contrary findings of these various executives.
Some staffers openly celebrated. From a screenshot: “Team DJT is suspended!!!” “OMG” “AHH”
I can’t fathom why the Twitter Files released by Elon Musk in the last 10 days have been ignored by most of the mainstream media, other than selective outrage. If the ideological roles were reversed, and this had happened to a Democratic president, the story would be getting wall-to-wall coverage.
Now maybe you agree that Twitter should have booted Trump for his actions leading up to Jan. 6 and the day of the riot; maybe you think he shouldn’t have been banned. But there is no question that Twitter twisted its own rules in acting against a president many on the left-leaning staff could not stand.
We had already learned that the previous management had systematically targeted conservatives for blacklisting and shadowbanning. The documents reveal a sweeping effort to suppress their tweets, block their posts from becoming trending topics, and even ensure that users who searched for their names would not find them.
What’s more, Twitter executives blatantly lied about this in public, saying they would never dream of doing such a thing. And complaints from the right were understandably dismissed as being anecdotal – until now.
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But the biggest target, we now know, was Donald Trump.
Starting a week before the 2020 election, Twitter’s top officials started suppressing the reach of Trump’s tweets. He hadn’t even lost the election yet, and those in charge of this vital social media platform – who clearly did not like the president – used their tools to make sure an increasingly small number of users saw some of Trump’s messages.
A key player was safety director Yoel Roth, who once complained there were “actual Nazis” in the Trump White House. Roth resigned after Musk took over.
The president was getting special scrutiny. In October 2020, Trump tweeted: “50,000 Ohio voters getting WRONG ABSENTEE BALLOTS. Out of control. A Rigged Election!!!” A Twitter executive said “that would be enough to be in violation, right?”
Roth had to reply no, because the Ohio problem was true.
When Twitter banned QAnon, the communications office told Roth they didn’t want to make “a big deal” about it because “it looks we’re trying to offer up something in place of the thing everyone wants” — that is, a Trump ban.
On Jan. 6, after Trump tweeted that those rioting at the Capitol should go home but remember this day forever, one top executive wrote: “It’s gut-wrenching. He’s a horrible human being.”
When CEO Jack Dorsey, who was in French Polynesia, cautioned the team that Twitter had to stick to its policy of allowing users to return after a temporary suspension, Roth wrote: “People who care about this…aren’t happy with where we are.”
At another point, Roth pressed for a permanent suspension of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Trump ally, even though it “doesn’t quite fit anywhere (duh).”
On Jan. 7, the day after the Capitol riot, Roth was excited to tell his high-level colleagues about a decision by Dorsey.
“GUESS WHAT,” Roth wrote. “Jack just approved repeat offender for civic integrity.”
What this meant, Roth explained, was a five-step process. Each violation that was “severe” enough would trigger a strike against the offender. “Strike 5: Perm Suspension.”
“Progress!” said a member of Roth’s team. This person asked whether they can ban Trump immediately. “Trump continues to just have his one strike,” Roth replied.
But the next day, all that was thrown out the window.
Twitter permanently banned Trump for incitement of violence, based on how his tweets “are being received & interpreted” – although it had said three years earlier that interpretations should not be taken into account, and, as mentioned earlier, steamrolled ahead despite the objections of various executives.
Beyond that, Roth explained, Twitter dropped its “public interest” exception for Trump – the idea that world leaders were exempt from the normal rules because they are newsworthy figures. So despots and dictators could remain on Twitter, but not Trump.
As Weiss points out, “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 left the tweet up and took no action against the ayatollah.
And, in banishing Trump, the company simply blew off the five-strikes policy expressed by Dorsey just the day before. That ban remained in place two years later, until Musk took over and lifted it (though the former president has remained on Truth Social for now).
When Dorsey asked for simpler language to explain the ban, Roth wrote: “gold help us [this] makes me think he wants to share it publicly.”
Roth also wrote that “multiple” Twitter staffers “have quoted the Banality of Evil suggesting that people implementing our policies are like Nazis following orders.” He certainly didn’t object to the Third Reich analogy.
One Twitter executive justified the move by writing, “the narrative that trump and his friends have pursued over the course of this election and frankly last 4+ years must be taken into account.” This person didn’t like the entire Trump presidency.
Only one junior official objected to the trampling of its own rules: “This might be an unpopular opinion but one off ad hoc decisions like this that don’t appear rooted in policy are imho a slippery slope… This now appears to be a fiat by an online platform CEO with a global presence that can gatekeep speech for the entire world…”
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Another thread here is that Roth was having what he called “very interesting” meetings in the fall of 2020 with the FBI, Homeland Security officials and the Director of National Intelligence. But keep in mind these were Trump appointees at the time.
One or more of these agencies may have floated the “Russian disinformation” line about the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story, which was adopted by many mainstream media types as Twitter blocked the story from being seen or shared – which Dorsey later admitted was a mistake.
Some critics see these meetings as evidence of collusion between Twitter and federal law enforcement, but at the moment there is no evidence of that. Chris Wray remained in place as Trump’s FBI director.
In one bit of self-criticism, Yoel Roth wrote: “We blocked the NYP story, then unblocked it (but said the opposite)… comms is angry, reporters think we’re idiots.”
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