Twitter CEO defends Trump ban, but warns of ‘dangerous precedent’

Trump's account was permanently removed last week due to "risk of further incitement of violence"

Jack Dorsey

Days after Twitter permanently suspended the account of outgoing US President Donald Trump, the microblogging site’s CEO Jack Dorsey defended the move as the right decision, but also warned that it could set a dangerous precedent.

Dorsey said the banning of Trump’s account revealed Twitter’s “failure” to create an open and healthy space for what he called “global public conversation.” But he had little specific to say about how Twitter or other Big Tech companies could avoid such choices in future.

The personal account of Trump, which had 88 million followers, was permanently removed last week due to “risk of further incitement of violence”, days after his supporters stormed the US Capitol and five people died in the violence.

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Related news | Twitter, Facebook suspend Trump accounts after violence at US Capitol

“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,” said the CEO of the San Francisco-based firm. “Was this correct?”

“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,” said Dorsey in a tweet thread.

“That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications. While there are clear and obvious exceptions, 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,” he continued.

“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.”

Talking about negative side of the move, Dorsey said, “This moment in time might call for this dynamic, but over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet. A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same.”

Related news | YouTube suspends President Trump’s channel for seven days

In a statement last week, Twitter had announced the banning of Trump from its platform: “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

Besides Twitter, Facebook has also banned Trump’s account and according to the company’s operations chief Sheryl Sandberg, they have no plans to lift the block. It has also banned the phrase “stop the steal” in a bid to crackdown on the president’s baseless claims about election fraud.

Recently, YouTube too temporarily suspended Trump’s account, preventing all video uploads by the channel for the next seven days. “After careful review, and in light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, we removed new content uploaded to the Donald J. Trump channel and issued a strike for violating our policies for inciting violence,” it said.

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