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Twitter CEO defends Trump ban, cites safety

NBC News logo NBC News 1/14/2021 David Ingram
Jack Dorsey looking at the camera © Provided by NBC News

SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday defended the company’s decision last week to permanently ban President Donald Trump.

“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,” Dorsey said in a thread on Twitter, talking about the ban for the first time.

He said the circumstances were “extraordinary and untenable,” forcing Twitter staff to put all of its focus on public safety.

“Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all,” he said.

The reference to physical threats echoes concerns by law enforcement and private sector intelligence analysts who said there was a significant uptick in violent rhetoric and planning on the internet around last week’s siege of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Concerns that violence could be repeated have continued into this week, with state and federal authorities preparing for potential violence in Washington, D.C., and at state capitals.

But Dorsey also said he was concerned about the long-term implications of so many tech companies cutting ties with the outgoing president, a phenomenon known as deplatforming. He said any ban is a “failure” by the company to promote healthy conversation.

“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 said.

In a nod to allegations that the Trump ban amounts to censorship or highlights the power that’s concentrated in Silicon Valley, Dorsey said that “a company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same.”

Dorsey said he did not believe the actions by tech companies were coordinated. He also said Twitter was continuing to work toward building a decentralized social media standard that would limit the influence of any one company.

Twitter’s ban of Trump was years in the making after the president repeatedly violated Twitter’s rules, including its ban on making threats. The San Francisco tech company rewrote part of its rulebook in 2018 to allow world leaders to remain on the platform even after violating some rules, a change that followed complaints about Trump and that the company said was necessary for holding leaders accountable.

Anti-Trump protesters for years put personal blame on Dorsey for not kicking Trump off the platform, calling the executive “complicit” in the president's actions.

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