Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday said that the decision to ban US President Donald Trump from the social media platform in the aftermath of the Capitol violence was the right decision but added that it sets a dangerous precedent.
“I believe this was the right decision for Twitter,” Dorsey said. “We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety.”
“Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation. They divide us. 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,” he said in a Twitter thread.
“The check and accountability on this power has always been the fact that a service like Twitter is one small part of the larger public conversation happening across the internet,” Dorsey said.
“If folks do not agree with our rules and enforcement, they can simply go to another internet service.”
Twitter, along with Facebook and YouTube, have either banned or suspended the president’s personal accounts over fears that he might use their platforms to incite more violence.
Dorsey said the decisions of the social media companies were not coordinated, but they were emboldened by each other’s actions.
Why was Trump banned?
Trump had repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of the US presidential election, making unfounded claims of voter fraud on social media, as well as during his rallies.
This led to a significant section of his supporters to believe that the election was somehow “stolen” from him.
An angry mob of his supporters reached Washington on January 6 as lawmakers had gathered to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
The mob — egged on by Trump in a speech where he implored them “fight like hell” to stop the “steal” of the election — stormed the Capitol building, sending lawmakers into hiding.
The attack left five people, including one police officer, dead.
Trump was initially suspended for 12 hours from Twitter over his role in inciting the mob and was permanently banned later in the week.
What was his response?
Trump initially tried to bypass the ban by tweeting from @POTUS, the official US government account for the president. But the tweets were subsequently deleted as Twitter does not allow using another account to evade a suspension.
In a videotaped message posted on Wednesday by the official White House handle, Trump criticized the social media companies’ purge as an “unprecedented assault on free speech.”
“The efforts to censor, cancel and blacklist our fellow citizens are wrong and dangerous,” he said. “What is needed now is for us to listen to one another, and not to silence one another.”
How did others react?
While Democratic politicians have mostly welcomed the ban, with some calling it long overdue, it also drew criticism from scores of Republicans who called it a subversion of the president’s free speech.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed concern about Twitter’s decision.
“The right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance,” her spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
“Given that, the chancellor considers it problematic that the president’s accounts have been permanently suspended.”