Trump finally gets the banhammer, but the reasoning should concern everyone
January 8th, 2021 will be remembered as the end of an era — on that day Twitter finally decided to permanently suspend Donald Trump and delete his entire Twitter history.
I am fine with Twitter’s decision to ban Trump — he had it coming and would have likely been banned soon after leaving office — but I find the rationale for banning him now a bit disturbing. To recap the events that led up to his ban, Trump was issued a 12-hour suspension on January 6th due to three tweets regarding the Capitol riot:
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
The third tweet was a link to his video in which Trump, in between repeating his allegation that the election was stolen and telling the rioters that he loves them and they are special, asked the rioters to go home. At no point in the video did he denounce the actions the rioters took.
The tweets were deleted and Trump released a scripted and edited video conceding the results of the election and committing to a peaceful transfer of power (which he disavowed after his banning). He sent out two tweets after the video, which are the tweets Twitter has used to justify the permanent ban:
“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
Here is Twitter’s explanation as to why those two seemingly benign tweets resulted in Trump’s suspension:
This determination is based on a number of factors, including
President Trump’s statement that he will not be attending the Inauguration is being received by a number of his supporters as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate and is seen as him disavowing his previous claim made via two Tweets ( 1, 2) by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Dan Scavino, that there would be an “orderly transition” on January 20th.
The second Tweet may also serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the Inauguration would be a “safe” target, as he will not be attending.
The use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters is also being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the US Capitol.
The mention of his supporters having a “GIANT VOICE long into the future” and that “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” is being interpreted as further indication that President Trump does not plan to facilitate an “orderly transition” and instead that he plans to continue to support, empower, and shield those who believe he won the election.
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.
Here is why this explanation sets a troubling precedent — it is based around how Trump’s words might be interpreted and actions that might take place due to them. Are these reasonable assumptions? Perhaps, but they are assumptions all the same.
There is a strain of thought that social media platforms need to be more proactive in preventing bad situations like the Capitol riot from happening by policing content more strictly. The issue with that idea is made clear here — it asks those platforms to act as precogs and eliminate content accordingly.
That is a recipe for catastrophe. Twitter, nor any other social media platform, can predict the future or if a certain post will be interpreted in a certain way by certain people. Yes there is ample evidence that some of Trump’s supporters take his Twitter missives as a call to insurrection, and this may be one of those margin calls that is easy for a platform to make. It sets a frightening precedent however, especially when the call will not be so easy.
Originally published at https://jenmonroe.substack.com.