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Twitter CEO says Trump ban was right, but sets a ‘dangerous precedent’


Dorsey’s statements – the first time the CEO spoke about the decision – arrived on the heels of an emotional week in which right-wing figures disavowed the power of Silicon Valley companies, while employees and the public had begged the company for more explanation of its actions in response to the violent January 6 pro-Trump rally at the Capitol. At the same time, Twitter continued to suspend tens of thousands of problematic accounts.

Twitter’s Trump ban drew criticism from some Republicans who said it quelled the US president’s right to free speech. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also warned through a spokesman that legislators, not private companies, should decide on potential curbs to free expression.

Dorsey said he believed Twitter had made “the right decision”, adding that the company “faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety.”

But the action, he noted, came with perilous consequences in terms of fragmenting the online conversation as people flee to use different services that suit them politically, and giving companies like Twitter enormous unchecked power.

“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,” he wrote. “A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same.”

Twitter has introduced a series of measures over the last year like labels, warnings and distribution restrictions to reduce the need for decisions about removing content entirely from the service.

Dorsey has said he believes those measures can promote more fruitful, or “healthy,” conversations online and lessen the impact of bad behaviour.

Twitter banned Trump’s account last Friday after first suspending him for 12 hours the day of the Capitol siege. On Friday, Trump again tweeted that he wouldn’t attend the inauguration, as well as saying that his supporters would not be disrespected “in any way, shape, or form.”

Twitter immediately dismantled his account, saying the tweets could incite violence.

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Facebook has also banned Trump indefinitely, as has Amazon-owned video platform Twitch. Snapchat banned him permanently, while Google-owned YouTube did so for seven days. Amazon’s web services division cut off the Trump friendly social media site Parler, which was also removed from the Google and Apple app stores.

The Twitter CEO explained bans by social media companies on Trump after last week’s violence were emboldened by each other’s actions, even though they were not coordinated.

Supporters of Trump who has repeatedly made baseless claims challenging Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November election, stormed the US Capitol last week, trying to halt the certification by Congress of Biden’s Electoral College win.

On Wednesday, Trump became the first president in US history to be impeached twice.

The Washington Post/Reuters

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