Twitter bans Trump, citing risk of incitement

Twitter bans Trump, citing risk of incitement
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Updated 09 January 2021

Twitter bans Trump, citing risk of incitement

Twitter bans Trump, citing risk of incitement
  • In an act of defiance, Trump tweeted “We will not be SILENCED!” from the @POTUS government account
  • Twitter reacted by deleted new Trump tweets on @POTUS and suspended his campaign account

WASHINGTON/PALO ALTO:  Twitter Inc. banned President Donald Trump’s @realDonaldTrump personal account on Friday, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence”.

In an act of defiance, Trump tweeted “We will not be SILENCED!” from the @POTUS government account, which has 33.4 million followers. 

“Twitter is not about FREE SPEECH,” Trump wrote in the now-deleted tweets, adding that he is considering building his own social media platform in the near future.

Twitter responded by deleted new Trump tweets on the @POTUS and also suspended the account of Trump's presidential campaign.

Twitter shut down his @TeamTrump campaign account shortly after it sent out a tweet with a “statement from President Trump” accusing Twitter of “banning free speech” and coordinating with “the Democrats and the Radical Left” to silence him.

The account shortly before that had pointed its 2.3 million followers to its account on Parler, which is popular with conservatives for its hands-off approach to content moderation.

Alphabet Inc’s Google suspended Parler on Friday, citing posts inciting violence, while Apple Inc. gave the service 24 hours to submit a detailed moderation plan.

Twitter has been under growing pressure to take further action against Trump following Wednesday’s deadly insurrection at the US Capitol. The social media platform initially suspended Trump’s account for 12 hours after he posted a video that repeated false claims about election fraud and praised the rioters who stormed the Capitol.
Twitter’s move deprives Trump of a potent tool he has used to communicate directly with the American people for more than a decade. He has used Twitter to announce policy changes, challenge opponents, insult enemies, praise his allies and himself — and to spread misinformation, flirt with inciting violence and denounce targets of his ire in capital letters.
Twitter has long given Trump and other world leaders broad exemptions from its rules against personal attacks, hate speech and other behaviors. But in a detailed explanation posted on its blog Friday, the company said recent Trump tweets amounted to glorification of violence when read in the context of the Capitol riot and plans circulating online for future armed protests around the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

FASTFACTS

  • Facebook and Instagram on Thursday suspended Trump’s account for at least two weeks, and possibly indefinitely.
  • Twitch, the live-streaming site owned by Amazon and used by Trump’s campaign to stream speeches, disabled Trump’s account until he leaves office
  • E-commerce company Shopify shut down two online Trump memorabilia stores
  • YouTube announced more general changes that will penalize accounts spreading misinformation about voter fraud in the 2020 election, with repeat offenders facing permanent removal
  • Reddit on Friday banned a forum for Trump supporters, called “donaldtrump.”

In those tweets, Trump stated that he will not be attending the inauguration and referred to his supporters as “American Patriots,” saying they will have “a GIANT VOICE long into the future.” Twitter said these statements “are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so.”
The company said “plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021. ”
Twitter said its policy enables world leaders to speak to the public, but that these accounts “are not above our rules entirely” and can’t use Twitter to incite violence. Trump had roughly 89 million followers.

In the wake of Wednesday’s deadly insurrection at the US Capitol, calls mounted for Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms to suspend President Donald Trump’s access to social media — permanently.
Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, on Thursday suspended Trump’s account for at least two weeks, and possibly indefinitely. Twitter, however, merely revoked Trump’s posting privileges for 12 hours after he posted a video that repeated false claims about election fraud and praised the rioters who stormed the Capitol.
On Friday, the company permanently banned two Trump loyalists — former national security adviser Michael Flynn and attorney Sidney Powell — as part of a broader purge of accounts promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory. Twitter said it will take action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm.
“Given the renewed potential for violence surrounding this type of behavior in the coming days, we will permanently suspend accounts that are solely dedicated to sharing QAnon content,” Twitter said in an emailed statement. The company also said Trump attorney Lin Wood was permanently suspended Tuesday for violating its rules, but provided no additional details.




He has used Twitter to announce policy changes, challenge opponents, insult enemies, praise his allies (and himself), and to spread misinformation. (AFP/Getty)

The company says that when it determines a group or campaign is engaged in “coordinated harmful activity,” it may suspend accounts that it finds primarily encourages that behavior.
Social media companies have been under intensified pressure to crack down on hate speech since a violent mob egged on by Trump stormed the Capitol. Dozens of QAnon social media accounts were hyping up Trump’s Jan. 6 rally in the heart of Washington, expressing hope that it could lead to the overturn of the election results.
On Friday, the advocacy coalition Stop Hate for Profit launched a campaign to pressure the major platforms, including YouTube owner Google, to kick Trump off their services for good. The organization, which includes the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Free Press and Color of Change, said it will call for an advertiser boycott if the platforms don’t take action by Jan. 20, the date of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Last summer, the coalition organized a monthlong ad boycott of Facebook that ultimately involved hundreds of companies to push for more assertive action on hate speech at the social network.
Some federal lawmakers and celebrities have likewise called on the tech companies to extend suspensions or ban Trump altogether. Frank Pallone, a powerful Democratic congressman from New Jersey, tweeted that “It’s time for (Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey) and Mark Zuckerberg to remove Trump from their platforms.”
“President Trump’s platform on social media has been used to incite violence and insurrection,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat from West Virginia, in an emailed statement. “Facebook and Instagram made the correct decision in banning President Trump for at least the remainder of his term and I will continue to urge Twitter and other platforms to do the same.”
Former First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted Thursday that Silicon Valley companies should stop enabling Trump’s “monstrous behavior” and called for them to permanently ban Trump and enact policies to prevent their technology from being used by national leaders to ”fuel insurrection.”
One former Twitter official has called on the platform to suspend Trump’s account in a way that would block anyone from following him and keep past tweets invisible for an indefinite period. It’s a change in position for Adam Sharp, Twitter’s former head of news, government, and elections, who tweeted Thursday that he had “long been a defender of Twitter’s permissiveness” regarding Trump’s violations of its rules. Sharp left the company in 2016.
Trump resumed tweeting Thursday. Twitter has said it could take further action as it kept track of “activity on the ground and statements made off Twitter.”
Other tech companies also acted against Trump’s accounts, citing threats of violence. Snapchat locked Trump’s account “indefinitely.” Twitch, the live-streaming site owned by Amazon and used by Trump’s campaign to stream speeches, disabled Trump’s account until he leaves office. E-commerce company Shopify shut down two online Trump memorabilia stores.
YouTube announced more general changes that will penalize accounts spreading misinformation about voter fraud in the 2020 election, with repeat offenders facing permanent removal. Reddit on Friday banned a forum for Trump supporters, called “donaldtrump.”
Whether the external pressure will lead to a policy change at Twitter is unclear, said Sinan Aral, social media researcher and director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. But it is more in the spotlight because other companies have taken more aggressive steps, which could influence its decision-making. “Being the platform that is now making the proactive decision to give the microphone back kind of puts you in the spotlight,” he said.
Some criticized tech companies for blocking or barring Trump. Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is seen as friendly to Trump, on Thursday said, “I don’t like anybody being censored or taking away from the the right to post a message on Twitter or Face(book). I don’t agree with that, I don’t accept that.” He said the issue should be decided by government and not private companies.

 

 


Analysis: Does Twitter’s Trump ban expose a dangerous double standard?

Analysis: Does Twitter’s Trump ban expose a dangerous double standard?
Concerns have been raised that Twitter’s move against US President Donald Trump sets a ‘dangerous’ precedent and violates freedom of speech. (File/AFP)
Updated 22 min 26 sec ago

Analysis: Does Twitter’s Trump ban expose a dangerous double standard?

Analysis: Does Twitter’s Trump ban expose a dangerous double standard?
  • Why did the platform act now, and why does it tolerate so many other preachers of hate?

The decision by Twitter to permanently ban US President Donald Trump caused many people in the Arab world to accuse the platform of double standard.

Why, they wonder, did it take so long for action to be taken against him, and why are so many other public figures known for spreading hate and intolerance allowed to continue to tweet freely.
“Throughout history, God has imposed upon them (the Jews) people who would punish them for their corruption,” said Egyptian preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi in a fatwa announcement broadcast by Al Jazeera on Jan. 30, 2009.
“The last punishment was that of Hitler … This was a divine punishment for them. Next time, God willing, it will be done at the hands of the faithful believers.”
The Qatar-based scholar has a long history of issuing hate-filled and antisemitic fatwas — yet he continues to enjoy the freedom provided by Twitter, which he joined in May 2011, to spread his objectionable views and ideas to more than 3 million followers.
“This decision (by Twitter to ban Trump) raises questions about the double standards with which these (social media) companies deal,” said veteran journalist and media expert Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy, who until 2011 was head of news with Egypt’s national broadcaster. “And also the extent to which the motives of these companies for their decisions are considered honest motives all the time.
“Trump’s approach, which encourages hate, has not changed for years. These companies did not take a stance on the US president at the time, but have now taken a position (when he is about to leave office).
“There are other personalities, some of them from the Middle East, who have been using hate speech for years and none of the major social media companies have taken action against them.”
Twitter suspended Trump’s account on Jan. 8 in the aftermath of the storming of the Capitol by his supporters on Jan. 6. They gave “the risk of further incitement of violence” as the reason for the ban.
“In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter rules would potentially result in this very course of action,” the platform said in a blog post, detailing the reasoning behind its decision.
Late last year Twitter updated its rules relating to hateful conduct, saying that it aims to create a more inclusive environment for users. In a blog entry posted on July 9, 2019 and updated on Dec. 2, 2020, the company said: “Our primary focus is on addressing the risks of offline harm, and research shows that dehumanizing language increases that risk.”
However El-Menawy said this might be a case of “too little, too late” for the social media company to be heralded as a champion for standing up to hate speech. The timing of the Trump ban, he says, “is questionable and raises suspicions about the motives.”
Mohammed Najem, executive director of SMEX, a digital-rights organization focusing on Arabic-speaking countries, echoed El-Menawy’s concerns.
“It shows that the companies don’t really know what they are doing when it comes to content moderation,” he said.
“For years many civil-society groups, in the US and around the globe, have been asking the right questions about content moderation but they were mostly ignored, or not given enough attention or acted upon by the tech companies. They have a lot of work to do (on this issue) and they need to listen to civil-society groups.”
Throughout his term as president, Trump has courted controversy with his Twitter activity. Supporters, opponents and journalists worldwide closely monitor his personal account on the platform, more so than the official account of the presidency (@POTUS), for a glimpse into his mind and motives.
As Brian L. Ott and Greg Dickinson, authors of the book “The Twitter Presidency: Donald J. Trump and the Politics of White Rage,” wrote in an op-ed published by USA Today: “Historically, Twitter has been reluctant to hold Trump responsible for his speech, likely because he was their most notorious user.” They added: “Simply put, Trump was good for business.”
Trump — who was impeached on Wednesday on charges of “incitement of insurrection,” making him the first US president to be impeached twice — indeed was one of Twitter’s top users. He had nearly 89 million followers, and his posts had been retweeted 389,842,552 times and liked 1,659,180,779 times since he opened his account on March 18, 2009. He was mentioned in 16 million tweets on the day of the Capitol siege, and 17 million on the day after.
While Twitter has special rules that apply to the accounts of world leaders, it insists they are not immune to its enforcement policies. Yet some continue to post comment considered objectionable by many.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, for example, cannot be compared to President Trump in terms of number of followers or reach on Twitter, but his activity on the platform follows a similarly dangerous pattern. Just last week, the Iranian leader posted false claims across his multiple accounts — he has ones in English, Spanish, Farsi, Arabic and Russian — that COVID-19 vaccines developed in US and UK are “completely untrustworthy,” France has “HIV-tainted blood supplies,” and it is “not unlikely that they (Western countries) would want to contaminate other nations.”
This follows years of similarly dangerous and damaging tweets in which Khamenei incited violence against other nations. In May 2020, for example, he said that Iran will “support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime.”

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has a long history of issuing hate-filled fatwas — yet he continues to enjoy the freedom provided by Twitter, which he joined in May 2011, to spread his objectionable views and ideas to more than 3 million followers. (File/AFP)

Other accounts, such as those of Al-Qaradawi and Qais Al-Khazali — both of whom have featured in the Preachers of Hate series published by Arab News — also remain active. Al-Khazali, from Iraq, was designated as a global terrorist by the US State Department in January last year.
The issue is not unique to accounts originating in the Arab world. In India, for example, social-media platforms, including Facebook, have been criticized for continuing to allow users to spread hate speech.
Anti-Muslim rhetoric from Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, is blamed for contributing to a rise in attacks against the minority Muslim community across the country, for example.
There are many accounts on Twitter and other social-media platforms that have prompted similar concerns. Observers warn that without better controls and moderation of objectionable content, Twitter runs the risk that its image as a promoter of free speech will be damaged and, through inactivity, it will come to be viewed as a promoter of hate speech.
Twitter did not respond to requests from Arab News for comment.