Twitter chief says Trump ban was right decision but sets 'dangerous precedent'

By Kari Paul

Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter, has said that banning Donald Trump from the platform was the “right decision” but that it sets a dangerous precedent.

Speaking out for the first time since the social network took the remarkable step of permanently suspending the president’s account following a violent attack on the US Capitol, Dorsey said the company faced “an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety”.

“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter, or how we got here,” Dorsey admitted on Wednesday in an extended Twitter thread. “I feel a ban is a failure of ours, ultimately, to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.”

Dorsey said that it was the right decision for the company but that such actions “fragment the public conversation”.

“They divide us,” he continued. “They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

Last week Twitter suspended the president, who was impeached for the second time on Wedneday for inciting a mob of his supporters, due to “the risk of further incitement of violence”. The decision comes as other big tech companies, including Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, and YouTube have suspended Trump’s accounts temporarily and in some cases permanently over the attack.

Silicon Valley has faced a reckoning over its role in spreading disinformation and serving as a platform for planning the insurrection. For years, Dorsey has resisted moderating high-profile users of the platform, arguing that the public has the right to hear from newsworthy figures.

But in 2020 it began to flag tweets from Trump for misinformation, disable the ability to retweet except when adding commentary, and in some cases removed tweets that appeared to incite violence. Twitter had also in the months surrounding the US presidential elections tested a number of policies to limit the spread of hate speech and misinformation.

Still, it faced criticism for failing to address the growing danger posed by Trump’s account, which boiled over after the president incited a mob to storm the Capitol building on 6 January.

Following the violent events, which left five dead, Trump tweeted what appeared to be an explanation or justification for the mob while continuing to push a false narrative that the election was not legitimate, saying: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away.”

On Friday, Trump’s account was permanently suspended. The president frantically jumped from account to account, attempting to tweet from @POTUS and his campaign account @TeamTrump before those outlets were restricted for him as well.

Twitter explained its reasoning for removing Trump in an extensive blogpost on Friday evening. It said tweets from Trump could easily be interpreted as encouragement or justification to “replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021”.

Dorsey underscored in his tweets a need for a new “open decentralized standard for social media”.

“It’s important that we acknowledge this is a time of great uncertainty and struggle for so many around the world,” he said. “Our goal in this moment is to disarm as much as we can, and ensure we are all building towards a greater common understanding, and a more peaceful existence on earth.”

Reuters contributed to this report