SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defended his company’s ban of President Donald Trump in a lengthy Twitter thread, although he warned that it could set a dangerous precedent.
When Trump incited his followers to storm the U.S. Capitol last week, then continued to tweet potentially ominous messages, Dorsey said the risk to public safety created “extraordinary and untenable circumstance” for the company. Having already briefly suspended Trump’s account the day of the Capitol riot, Twitter on Friday banned Trump entirely, then smacked down the president’s attempt to tweet using other accounts.
“I believe this was the right decision for Twitter,” wrote Dorsey, in one of the thread’s plainest-spoken sentences.
But he also acknowledged that actions like the Trump ban amount to a “failure” by Twitter to avoid such situations in the first place, presumably through better and more effective moderation. Extreme measures such as banning Trump highlight the extraordinary power that companies like Twitter can wield, Dorsey wrote — not to mention the collateral damage that such actions can lead to.
While Twitter was grappling with the problem of Trump, Apple, Google and Amazon were moving to effectively shut down the right-wing site Parler by denying it access to app stores and cloud-hosting services, ostensibly because the platform wasn’t aggressive enough about removing calls to violence. While declining to criticize his Big Tech counterparts directly, Dorsey suggested that such exercises of power could undermine the “noble purpose and ideals” of the open internet.
The Twitter co-founder, however, had little specific to say about how his platform or other Big Tech companies could avoid such choices in the future.
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
I believe this was the right decision for Twitter. We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety. Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021
I believe the internet and global public conversation is our best and most relevant method of achieving this. I also recognize it does not feel that way today. Everything we learn in this moment will better our effort, and push us to be what we are: one humanity working together.— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021