Twitter executives spent three days after the January 6th riot frantically devising a pretext to permanently suspend former President Donald Trump even as leading Democrats like Michelle Obama ramped up pressure for a ban, the latest “Twitter Files” show.
In the end, Twitter insiders censored a sitting president by adopting roughly the same “Orange Man bad” reasoning Obama articulated in a tweet.
Michelle O pushed for Trump ban
The former First Lady had called on Silicon Valley “to stop enabling this monstrous behavior—and go even further than they have already by permanently banning this man from their platforms.”
Left-leaning institutions like the Anti-Defamation League and the Washington Post also demanded action. Despite the outside pressure, the move to pull the plug ultimately was made by liberal partisans inside Twitter who harbored their own anti-Trump animus.
Some of the key players were Twitter’s former Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth, who once described Trump and his staffers as “actual Nazis,” and Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s Head of Legal, Policy, and Trust.
The Twitter files
It was Gadde who suggested that one of Trump’s last tweets could be interpreted as “coded incitement to further violence,” which ended up being Twitter’s official reasoning for the ban, Bari Weiss reported in part five of the Twitter files.
Twitter had been laying the groundwork for a ban over the course of a months-long power trip, as documented by Matt Taibbi in part three. Roth, especially, gloated about weekly meetings with the FBI and DHS as Twitter began shadow-banning Trump over his tweets about the 2020 election.
On January 7th, as reported in part four of the Twitter files, Roth was excited to report that former CEO Jack Dorsey approved a rule change that would leave Trump with just one “strike” left.
“GUESS WHAT,” he wrote. “Jack just approved repeat offender for civic integrity.”
Twitter celebrated ban
Twitter had also moved to make an exception for a “public interest” rule preventing world leaders from being banned in order to specifically deal with Trump. But as late as January 8th, the day Trump was suspended, Twitter executives could not justify banning Trump according to Twitter’s rules.
That changed after Gadde suggested Trump issued a “coded incitement to violence” in one of his last tweets, in which Trump praised the 75 million people who voted for him as “patriots” who would not “be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
Inside Twitter, employees quickly adopted the view that Trump was a “terrorist” leader comparable to Hitler who should be banned based on the “totality of his Tweets.”
Finally, after three days of frantic, behind-the-scenes discussion and some creative leaps with Twitter’s own policies, a sitting president was silenced. Twitter employees were “ecstatic” when the ban came through, while only a handful raised concerns about banning a world leader, Weiss noted.
“Maybe because I am from China,” one employee said, “I deeply understand how censorship can destroy the public conversation.”