Twitter CEO says Trump ban was correct, but sets dangerous precedent

Taking action to remove accounts fragments public conversation, says Jack Dorsey

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in 2018. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in 2018. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

 

Twitter Inc chief executive officer Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday that banning US president Donald Trump from the social media platform after last week’s violence at the US Capitol was the “right decision,” but said it sets a dangerous precedent.

San Francisco-based Twitter last week removed Mr Trump’s account, which had 88 million followers, citing the risk of further violence following the storming of the Capitol by supporters of the president.

“Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation,” Mr Dorsey said on Twitter. “They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

The ban drew criticism from some Republicans who said it quelled the 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.

In his Twitter thread, Mr Dorsey said while he took no pride in the ban: “Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.”

Even so, he added: “While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.”

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.

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

The Twitter chief executive officer added that bans by social media companies on Mr Trump after last week’s violence were emboldened by each other’s actions even though they were not co-ordinated. But in the long term, the precedent set “will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet,” he said.

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

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