Amid growing pressure from different quarters to ban U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter for his vitriolic and inflammatory tweets, particularly in the wake of his Tuesday night outburst against North Korea, Twitter released a statement explaining why the company was against the proposed ban.
Twitter said in a Friday blog post titled “World Leaders on Twitter” that blocking political figures and world leaders or removing controversial tweets from them would amount to depriving people of access to important information, which they are entitled to see and debate on.
While such a decision would not silence the leader it would most definitely come in the way of “necessary discussion around their words and actions,” the statement said.
“Twitter is here to serve and help advance the global, public conversation. Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society,” read the post.
“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate. It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions,” further explained the blog post.
The statement went on to say that the company reviewed tweets by leaders “within the political context that defines them” and implemented rules accordingly.
“No one person’s account drives Twitter’s growth or influences these decisions. We work hard to remain unbiased with the public interest in mind,” the statement said.
“We are working to make Twitter the best place to see and freely discuss everything that matters. We believe that’s the best way to help our society make progress,” the statement concluded.
The call for the ban on Trump gained momentum after his controversial Tuesday tweet, in which the U.S. President has responded to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Day threat, saying that whole of America was within the range of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and that “a nuclear button is always on his desk.”
Trigger happy Trump shot right back with this tweet:
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
Many took offense to the tweet, while others saw it as a childish and irresponsible remark from POTUS. Whatever the case, it drew protests such as, “Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is complicit!” “Twitter should ban Trump!” “Doesn’t this violate Twitter’s terms of service?”
However, Twitter’s stand on the issue does not mention Trump by name even once and has, also, conveniently avoided addressing the questions asked about Trump’s violation of the terms of service of his Twitter account. All it does is put its foot down against banning world leaders even if their comments are in violation of the company’s terms and conditions, or so it would seem.
Whether Trump’s tweet was in contravention of Twitter policies, or not, in so far as user behavior is concerned, is again open to debate and there are varying opinions on the subject.
As Techcrunch’s Taylor Hatmaker has rightly noted, “Most users can’t back up their casual threats with a nuclear arsenal, so it’s safe to say that the Trump Twitter situation poses some uniquely weighty questions. Some even argue that Trump’s Twitter threats are an exercise in nuclear deterrence and can be categorized more as bizarrely articulated military policy than the kind of tweet that might violate Twitter’s rules banning “specific threats of violence.”
The impression that Twitter’s explanation gives is that world leaders are exempt from saying anything in the name of “necessary discussion around their words and actions,” at least as far as the social media platform is considered.
Hatmaker is, therefore, right again in questioning if a Rodrigo Duterte or a Kim Jong-un would also be allowed to get away with their own brand of inflammatory statements. “According to this, it sounds like yes,” he observes.
A group which calls itself “Resistance SF” has claimed responsibility for projecting a message targeting the social media site’s CEO on the side of Twitter’s headquarters building in San Francisco. The message read “jack is #complicit.”
A post from the group on its Facebook page offers readers a four-point line-of-action if they are “outraged at @jack for being #complicit” and “want to stop Trump from starting a nuclear war.”
“1. Contact your members of Congress, ask them to co-sponsor HR 669 / S 200, bi-partisan legislation which would require Congressional approval for any nuclear first strike. SF’s Congressional delegation has yet to get on board.
Freaked out by Trump's tweet threatening nuclear war with #NorthKorea? Support HR 669 / S 200 by Senator @EdMarkey and me. This bipartisan legislation prevents @POTUS from launching a nuclear first strike without Congressional authorization. https://t.co/rR6MKQIkT2
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 3, 2018
2. Write or tweet at Twitter Board members. Tell them politely but firmly that Trump or @jack needs to go. Thank you, Kathy and Eric, for making this easy!
3. Demonetize Twitter. If #quitTwitter would be a burden to you, at least deny the company the dollars they don’t deserve. Go to: https://twitter.com/personalization and deselect all. You may also use an ad blocker to block Twitter ads and promotions.
4. Attend our next protest, in person and or by sharing digitally. More information to follow soon.”
Another group that goes by the name “Color of Change” has appealed to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to get rid of Trump from its platform citing multiple violations of Twitter user terms by the president.
“Please kick Donald Trump off Twitter. Now, he’s using the social media platform to threaten nuclear war. Donald Trump has launched an assault on the very communities that drives Twitter to flourish,” it said.
“His abusive behavior has violated your user agreement multiple times while rising to power by promoting hateful conduct towards Black people by providing succor to white nationalists after Charlottesville, he has promoted violent threats against protesters, he’s called for the mass harassment of Latinx folks, and Muslims.
Trump has used Twitter to destroy the very discourse and community your company has aided in fostering.”
If this doesn’t convince Twitter, one doubts if anything will.
Then, there are those who feel Twitter is doing the right thing by not banning the president, including New Republic’s Jeet Heer who wrote earlier this year that “banning Trump from Twitter is a really stupid idea.”
“Twitter’s response is correct and could be extended. Suspending Trump’s account is a singularly idiotic idea. The problem with Trump is not that he tweets out mean things but that he’s president of the United States. Because he’s a powerful figure, there is a manifest public interest in being able to access his thoughts and get a sense of what he considers to be important, which Twitter allows the public to do,” wrote Heer.
CNN’s Brian Stelter referred to Trump’s tweet as “madness,”
“There’s a word for this. Madness. This is madness,” he wrote.
“What would we say if the leader of Germany or China or Brazil posted tweets like Trump’s? How would we cover it? We’d say: That person is not well. We’d wonder whether that person is fit to hold office,” he said.