Trump’s Twitter Ban

Supporters of President Donald Trump storming the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021 [Leah Millis/Reuters]

I am so uncomfortable with this tweet. I wanted to stay out of this debate as it has many merits on all sides, and it is also very toxic and I have nothing to gain but a massive headache if I responded. Alas, let’s go for it.

Conflating social media platforms with government sanctioned rules of free speech is a common mistake by many. A country’s speech laws apply to social media platforms, but social media platforms have the right to apply their own additional rules, for better or for worse.

The existing reality that social media speech has become monopolized by very few tech giants is indeed problematic, but also how the free market works. This is of course still very much arguable and is argued for years by better more knowledgable experts than me.

The market will also create alternatives according to demand. So we have Gab, Parler, alternative news publications, and many other mediums that are popping up as a result of the rejection of the censorial nature of the more traditional spaces of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Demanding that government controls TOS or decides who gets banned from social media is what authoritarian regimes do. I am not interested in right leaning or a left leaning governments dictating to social media platforms what is and isn’t allowed outside of already existing laws. I also support Section 230 and believe that getting rid of it, will cause a far more litigious environment that will lead to further censorship, not less.

A few facts before I address the Trump ban. Only 22% of U.S. adults use Twitter. 80% of tweets come from only 10% of these twitter users. 42% of US twitter users, use Twitter to discuss politics. The sense that Twitter is the source of info for US adults, is a false one.

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/10/share-of-u-s-adults-using-social-media-including-facebook-is-mostly-unchanged-since-2018/

Twitter was never integrated into the role of the US president. No president has ever used Twitter as an official avenue for a White House press release.

To the best of my knowledge, Trump is the first US president who used his Twitter account uniquely as a communication channel that was not necessarily “official” in nature, and something that resembles a combination of a troll and a populist leader. Love it or hate it, it was not “normal” in the full sense of the word.

Complaints over Trump’s violations of Twitter TOS and comparing his tweets that remained live with other users who were suspended, have been ongoing for years. Twitter committed to applying the rules to Trump’s account on the day that he leaves office. However, since the elections, in November, Trump has waged a disinformation campaign regarding the election results. He went above the idea of just seeking validation for the legality of the votes, he flat out proclaimed that the elections were stolen, and riled up his very angry base. All the proper and legal channels one must go through when doubting an election results were exhausted, including the courts and judges appointed by Trump.

In the weeks after the election, President Trump and a handful of key, high-level supporters urged in news conferences, speeches and social media posts that followers of the president should rise up against the outcome of a national election they said was rigged. The Wall Street Journal

On December 18th, Trump tweeted: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”. On Sunday, January 3rd, Trump tweeted:“I will be there. Historic day!”

January, 6th, 2021, also coincided with the congressional vote to certify the Electoral College votes from the presidential election. It was a last attempt to either stop this event, or pressure congress to vote against it.

Far-right groups, Qanon, militias, and extremists came from all over the country to participate. Through all these weeks and months, Trump amplified conspiracy theories about the election and encouraged his supporters to show up at the protests. What started as a peaceful protest, quickly escalated to mayhem, riots, and an attempted takeover of the Capitol building. We are still learning of the various players, events, and victims of this event. What we know now is that 5 people were killed, including a security officer that was hit over the head by a protestor. A woman was shot trying to breach a secure area. Two pipe bombs and one IED were found and neutralized. Arrests are still taking place as people are being identified through social media, and offices were breached, ransacked, and the building was occupied for hours.

As many in the US and around the world were watching these events unfold, horrified, and rightfully afraid, angry, and confused, Trump posted a video sending his love to these people who were not only breaking the law and creating mayhem in our Capitol Building, but downright disrupted and stopped our government from fulfilling their duty to certify our vote, while government officials had to hide for their own safety. This was an act of terrorism, sedition, and insurrection.

Shortly after that, Twitter removed this tweet and suspended Trump for 12 hours citing very real fear that the President’s messages, may escalate the situation in DC, and incite further violence. Congress members from right to left have publicly condemned the events and Trump. Even foreign leaders expressed their dismay at such a historic event in US election history.

What makes a nation a stable one, is the peaceful transition of powers. It is a pillar of democracy. The US has countless flaws and miles to go before we can proclaim our election process is perfect and flawless, but what we do have, for centuries, is a constitutional, a social, and a political agreement that when the people have spoken, we all shake hands and move on. What Trump has done, and continues to do, is unprecedented. His supporters called for the VP to be killed. For violence against our own representatives, security forces, and American citizens. The violent elements within this protests continue to promise their return on Inauguration Day, armed.

Upon Trump’s return from his short suspension, a new video was posted that had everyone hear what they wanted to hear. It lacked clarity, decisiveness, and a clear call to stand down. Shortly after, a thread was posted where Trump, again, repeats the idea that this is far from over. He never once admits that he lost the elections, thus, leaving a reason to his hordes of fanatics to continue what they started January 6th.

Twitter took decisive action this time and banned him permanently. A few attempts were made through other accounts were swiftly shut down, and following were other social media apps who banned him from their platforms as well. They were right to do so. The safety of our nation’s democracy and peaceful transition of powers was compromised. The only person who could have prevented or stopped it was Trump. We are still reeling from Wednesday’s events, and have no clear idea what will take place from then till Inauguration Day, and after that. These are the actions of a mad man who used his power to incite violence and chaos and damage our democracy. His ability to directly talk to the violent elements in his camp is not a legal right he earned nor deserves. A president who cannot adhere by the rules of democracy, and utilizes social media to bring about sedition, should probably be concerned with the legality of his actions, more than his ability to tweet.

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