Startling new revelations from the Twitter files yesterday show how the company banning President Trump two days after Jan. 6 – against the recommendation of several executives and his security unit – was not justified.
The most recent documents, reported by journalist Bari Weiss, clearly show how the previous leadership was willing to abandon its own rules and used two tweets from Trump on the morning of January 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 in the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way! !!”
The second tweet stated that he would not be attending the inauguration.
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Here’s what Twitter executives told their colleagues:
“I don’t see the incitement to fear.”
“I think we’d be hard pressed to say that’s incitement… It’s pretty clear that he’s saying it was ‘American patriots’ who voted for him and not the terrorists (you can call them that , right?) from Wednesday.”
“I don’t see the incitement angle here.”
Anika Collier Navaroli, a Policy Officer responsible for Twitter’s Content Moderation Rules, wrote: “As fyi, Safety has assessed the DJT Tweet above and determined 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 didn’t intervene in what I saw happening produce, people were going to die”.
In banning Trump on Jan. 8, Twitter said the two tweets were an incitement to violence, dismissing the different leaders’ findings to the contrary.
Some staff openly celebrated. From a screenshot: “DJT team is suspended!!!” “OMG” “AHH”
I don’t understand why the Twitter files posted by Elon Musk in the past 10 days have been ignored by most mainstream media, aside from selective outrage. If the ideological roles were reversed, and it happened to a Democratic president, the story would get full coverage.
Now, you might agree that Twitter should have fired 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’s no doubt that Twitter bent its own rules by acting against a president that many left-leaning staffers couldn’t stand.
We had already learned that the previous leadership systematically targeted conservatives for blacklisting and shadowbanning. The documents reveal a massive effort to suppress their tweets, prevent their posts from becoming trending topics, and even ensure that users who searched for their names wouldn’t find them.
Moreover, Twitter executives openly lied about it in public, saying they would never dream of doing such a thing. And the complaints from the right have understandably been dismissed as anecdotal – until now.
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But the biggest target, we now know, was Donald Trump.
Beginning a week before the 2020 election, senior Twitter officials began removing reach from Trump’s tweets. He hadn’t even lost the election yet, and those responsible for this vital social media platform – who clearly didn’t like the president – used their tools to ensure that an increasingly small number users were seeing some of Trump’s posts.
A key player was director of security Yoel Roth, who once complained that there were “real Nazis” in the Trump White House. Roth resigned after Musk took office.
The president was under special scrutiny. In October 2020, Trump tweeted, “50,000 Ohio voters are getting BAD BALLOTS. Out of control. A rigged election!!!” A Twitter executive said “that would be enough to be in violation, right?”
Roth had to answer no, because the Ohio problem was real.
When Twitter banned QAnon, the communications office told Roth they didn’t want to make a “big fuss” about it because “it looks like we’re trying to offer something instead of what everyone else wants” – that is, a Trump ban.
On Jan. 6, after Trump tweeted that those rioting on Capitol Hill should go home but remember this day forever, a senior leader wrote, “It’s heartbreaking. He’s a horrible human being.”
When CEO Jack Dorsey, who was in French Polynesia, warned the team that Twitter should stick to its policy of allowing users back after a temporary suspension, Roth wrote: “People who care about that…are not happy with where we are.”
At another point, Roth pushed for a permanent suspension of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Trump ally, even if it “doesn’t quite go (duh).”
On January 7, the day after the Capitol riot, Roth was thrilled to inform his high-level colleagues of a decision by Dorsey.
“GUESS WHAT,” Roth wrote. “Jack just approved a repeat offender for civic integrity.”
What that meant, Roth explained, was a five-step process. Each sufficiently “serious” violation would trigger a strike against the violator. “Strike 5: Permanent suspension.”
“Progress!” said a member of Roth’s team. This person asked if they could ban Trump immediately. “Trump continues to have his one strike,” Roth replied.
But the next day, it was all thrown out the window.
Twitter has permanently banned Trump for inciting violence, based on how his tweets “are received and interpreted” – although he said three years earlier that interpretations should not be considered and, as mentioned earlier, moved forward despite objections from 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 stay on Twitter, but not Trump.
As Weiss points out, “In June 2018, Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted: ‘#Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that must be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen'” . Twitter left the tweet and took no action against the Ayatollah.
And, in banishing Trump, the company simply reversed the five-strike policy expressed by Dorsey the day before. That ban remained in effect two years later, until Musk took over and lifted it (although the former president remained on Truth Social for now).
When Dorsey asked for simpler language to explain the ban, Roth wrote: “gold helps us [this] makes me think he wants to share it publicly.”
Roth also wrote that “several” Twitter staffers “have cited the banality of evil suggesting that the people implementing our policies are like Nazis following orders.” He certainly did not object to the Third Reich analogy.
A Twitter executive justified the decision, writing, “the narrative that Trump and his friends have been pursuing in this election that frankly spans over 4 years needs to be considered.” This person didn’t like the whole Trump presidency.
Only one junior official objected to trampling on his own rules: “It might be an unpopular opinion, but one-off decisions like this that don’t seem rooted in politics are in my humble opinion a slippery slope… It now seems like a fiat by an online platform CEO with a global presence who can speak for the world…”
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Another thread here is that Roth had 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 that these were Trump appointees at the time.
One or more of these agencies may have started the “Russian disinformation” line on the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story, which was embraced by many types of mainstream media as Twitter prevented to see or share the story – which Dorsey later admitted was a mistake.
Some critics see these meetings as evidence of collusion between Twitter and federal law enforcement, but at this time there is no evidence of this. Chris Wray stayed on as Trump’s FBI director.
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In a small self-criticism, Yoel Roth wrote, “We blocked the NYP story, then unblocked it (but said otherwise)… comms angry, reporters think we’re idiots.”