On January 8, 2021, Twitter executives took the massive and unprecedented step of permanently banning the account of a world leader, namely then-President Donald Trump, for allegedly violating the platform’s terms of service by inciting violence, such as the riot at the U.S. Capitol building two days earlier.
Now the released internal communications of Twitter’s employees have revealed that the ban was arbitrary and based not on actual violations of the rules, but rather on an overtly biased interpretation of Trump’s last couple of tweets by top executives, the Western Journal reported.
That revelation came from independent liberal journalist Bari Weiss, one of several independent reporters granted exclusive access to Twitter’s internal communications by new owner Elon Musk that have been shared with the public in a series of tweet threads dubbed the “Twitter Files.”
Trump’s final tweets prior to permanent ban
Part Five of the Twitter Files, published by Weiss on Monday, focused exclusively on the internal deliberations among Twitter’s executives and employees on the day that the fateful decision to ban then-President Trump was made.
The platform decided to finally take action over two seemingly innocuous tweets posted by Trump that morning that were later construed to constitute an incitement to violence as a justification to permanently suspend Trump’s personal account.
The first of those tweets said, “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!!!”
That was followed about an hour later by a post, which turned out to be his last, that read, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
Ban based on biased interpretations
According to Weiss, there was a concerted effort among a majority of Twitter employees for Trump to be banned from the platform, and those two tweets were assigned to the Safety Team to determine if they violated any of the platform’s policies, specifically the one against “incitement” of violence.
However, the team quickly decided that those tweets didn’t violate any of the platform’s rules, particularly with regard to incitement, and shared their reasons why there was nothing actionable about them.
Yet, in stark contrast to how Twitter declined to ban or suspend accounts of other world leaders who had obviously violated the rules, and following more internal pressure and additional high-level meetings, the decision to overrule the Safety Team and ban Trump was ultimately made by Vijaya Gadde, the then-head of Twitter’s Legal, Policy, and Trust division.
She determined, perhaps on advisement from the platform’s “scaled enforcement team,” that Trump’s final tweets constituted “coded incitement to further violence.”
Specifically, the reference to “American Patriots” was interpreted to mean the Capitol rioters and not his 75+ million voters, while the tweet about not attending President Joe Biden’s inauguration was taken to mean that it would be “safe” for Trump’s supporters to violently attack the event, the Western Journal noted.
Account now restored, but no resumption of activity yet
In the end, Trump was banned despite it having been determined by Twitter’s employees assigned to review his tweets that there were no actual violations to warrant such action.
Now, for what it is worth, Trump’s account has been fully restored under Musk, though he has not yet resumed his previous prodigious use of the platform, likely due to the embrace of his own created platform, Truth Social.