A defiant Trump lashed out in response late Friday, accusing Twitter in a statement of having “coordinated with the Democrats and the Radical Left” to remove his account.
Twitter had resisted taking action against Trump for years, even as critics called on the company to suspend him, arguing that a world leader should be able to speak to his or her citizens unfettered.
Twitter specifically raised the potential that Trump’s recent tweets could mobilize his supporters to commit acts of violence around President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, an analysis that experts saw as a major expansion in the company’s approach to moderating harmful content online.
Many observers noted that this most aggressive enforcement action in Twitter’s history came in the week that political power shifted decisively in Washington, toward Democrats who long have demanded greater policing of hate speech and violent talk on social media — and away from a president and party who long had made effective use of the more freewheeling policies of the past.
“It took blood and glass in the halls of Congress — and a change in the political winds — for the most powerful tech companies in the world to recognize, at the last possible moment, the profound threat of Donald Trump,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)It appeared to be the first time the company had ever taken such an action since instituting a broad policy around world leaders last year, illustrating the slow shift in Silicon Valley as the country’s most popular, prominent platforms grew more comfortable in taking on Trump.
A particularly explosive flash point for both Twitter and Facebook came in May, when Trump called protesters after the killing of unarmed Black motorist George Floyd “THUGS” in social media posts.
In response, Twitter opted to label Trump’s tweet as harmful and hide it from public view — and Facebook petitioned for Trump to change his tone in private.
The shift within Silicon Valley began even before that as the coronavirus swept through the world last year, and the stakes of the rampant lies and misinformation on social media platforms were underscored by a rising body count as Trump and others denied the severity of the pandemic.
Rashad Robinson, the president of Color of Change, a civil rights group that has been pushing social media companies to police Trump’s behavior more aggressively, fretted on Friday that it took too long for Twitter and its peers to act given the president’s past missteps — and their potential to have touched off real-world violence.
In considering how his supporters might read and interpret his messages, Twitter also potentially opened the door for the company to take a more aggressive approach on other content, including tweets from political leaders in the future experts said.
The move comes amid a wave of criticism from Democratic lawmakers and Twitter’s own employees, who demanded in a letter written this week that the company’s leaders permanently suspend Trump’s account.
In an internal letter addressed to chief executive Jack Dorsey and his top executives viewed by The Washington Post, roughly 350 Twitter employees requested an investigation into the past several years of corporate actions that led to Twitter’s role in the insurrection.
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