Op-ed by Summer Lane | Photo: Alamy
Twitter employees and executives who made the decision to ban President Donald Trump are looking more duplicitous than ever in light of the fifth “Twitter Files” installment released this week.
A slate of hypocrisy was exposed in a revelatory thread from journalist and “The Free Press” founder Bari Weiss, detailing the lead-up to the infamous day when Twitter permanently suspended the sitting president of the United States.
“To understand Twitter’s decision to ban Trump, we must consider how Twitter deals with other heads of state and political leaders, including in Iran, Nigeria, and Ethiopia,” Weiss wrote, capping off a discussion that highlighted Twitter employee dissent over whether Trump should be banned in the days between Jan. 6 and Jan 8, 2021.
According to internal Slack chats, former Twitter Head of Legal, Policy and Trust Vijaya Gadde asked if Trump’s tweets were “coded incitement to further violence.” In other words, she wondered if there was enough context in the president’s tweet to construe violent intent. Gadde even suggested that the term “American Patriots” could somehow be used to find context for incitement.
The internal Twitter conversation leading up to Trump’s permanent suspension smacked of deeply-rooted hypocrisy, as Weiss pointed out that multiple other heads of state around the world had actually tweeted extremely violent rhetoric and subsequently received no suspensions or deletions.
In another example, Weiss pointed out that in October 2020, the former Malaysian Prime Minister tweeted that, “Muslims have the right to be angry and kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.” Weiss clarified that while the prime minister’s tweet was deleted, he still remains on Twitter. His account was not suspended.
Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria, also “incited violence” against “pro-Biafra groups,” Weiss continued. “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” said Buhari, according to Weiss.
Buhari’s tweet was deleted, but his account was not suspended.
Weiss went on, “In early February 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government threatened to arrest Twitter employees in India, and to incarcerate them for up to seven years after they restored hundreds of accounts that had been critical of him. Twitter did not ban Modi.”
Weiss further included a story on the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed:
The pattern seems clear: Twitter employees and executives were not willing to take firm action against even the most violent tweets from foreign heads of state but spent a large amount of time searching for a justification to ban President Trump from the platform.
In November 2022, Elon Musk reversed the permanent suspension on President Trump’s Twitter account and reinstated it in a win for proponents of free speech.