(NEXSTAR) – Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey backed the decision to ban President Trump in a lengthy statement Wednesday, but expressed regret over the company having to take the step.
“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realdonaldtrump from Twitter, or how we got here,” Dorsey said. “After a clear warning we’d take this action, we made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter.”
Dorsey said that “offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real” and drives the company’s policy and enforcement “above all.”
He acknowledged that a ban has “real and significant ramifications,” saying:
Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation. 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.
Twitter banned President Donald Trump’s account Friday, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence” following the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Twitter has long given Trump and other world leaders broad exemptions from its rules against personal attacks, hate speech and other behaviors. But in a detailed explanation posted on its blog Friday, the company said recent Trump tweets amounted to glorification of violence when read in the context of the Capitol riot and plans circulating online for future armed protests around the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
The social platform had been under growing pressure to take further action against Trump following the Wednesday violence. On Thursday, Facebook suspended Trump’s account through Jan. 20 and possibly indefinitely. Twitter merely suspended Trump’s account for 12 hours after he posted a video that repeated false claims about election fraud and praised the rioters who stormed the Capitol.
Trump’s Twitter persona had long functioned as a mix of policy announcements, often out of the blue; complaints about the media; disparagement of women, minorities and his perceived enemies; and praise for his supporters, replete with exclamation marks, all-caps and one-word declarations such as “Sad!”
He has fired numerous officials on Twitter and his posts, like his speeches at rallies, are a torrent of misinformation.
In the wake of Trump being broadly de-platformed by the social media channels he used so prolifically to further his agenda and rail against his enemies, his supporters in the GOP and media have decried what they have called “Orwellian” censorship. Experts have pointed out that the First Amendment guards against the government infringing on free speech, not private companies.
“Big Tech is not going to stop with the president of the United States,” Kay James, president of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, wrote in a tweet. “They can ban you next and everyone reading this.”
Since Twitter first announced the action to suspend Trump, he has lost access to Parler, YouTube, Snapchat, and others.
Dorsey expressed concern that the near simultaneous actions of the largest social media companies to ban Trump would damage the collective conversation:
The check and accountability on this power has always been the fact that a service like Twitter is one small part of the larger public conversation happening across the internet. If folks do not agree with our rules and enforcement, they can simply go to another internet service.
This concept was challenged last week when a number of foundational internet tool providers also decided not to host what they found dangerous. I do not believe this was coordinated. More likely: companies came to their own conclusions or were emboldened by the actions of others.
As he looks forward, Dorsey admitted that the company need to look critically at inconsistencies in the enforcement of Twitter policy, as well as misuse of the platform, but emphasized that the underlying goal should be a “free and open global internet.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.