SAN FRANCISCO (NewsNation Now) — Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on defended his company’s ban of President Donald Trump in the aftermath of the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol by the president’s supporters last week.
In a Twitter thread Wednesday evening, Dorsey issued his first public statement on the matter, calling the ban “the right decision” for his company.
“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter,“ Dorsey wrote. But he added: ”I believe this was the right decision for Twitter.”
Last Friday, Twitter permanently suspended the @realDonaldTrump account “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” Twitter said it made a decision after a review of recent tweets from President Donald Trump and the context around them.
Twitter was also among several social media outlets — including Facebook and Instagram — that locked the president’s accounts immediately following last week’s Capitol violence. Twitter had locked Trump’s account for 12 hours initially.
Facebook and Twitter removed a short video by President Donald Trump in which he urged supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to “go home” while also repeating unfounded accusations about the integrity of the presidential election.
The video was issued more than two hours after protesters began storming the Capitol last week as lawmakers convened for an extraordinary joint session to confirm the Electoral College results and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Trump opened his video saying, “I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now.”
After repeating baseless claims about voter fraud affecting the election, Trump went on to say: “We can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”
Republican lawmakers and previous administration officials had asked the president to give a statement to his supporters to quell the violence. The statement came as authorities struggled to take control of the Capitol unrest that led to the evacuation of lawmakers.
President Donald Trump in his White House video on Wednesday night condemned the social media bans, calling them an assault on free speech. He said Americans should listen to each other, not silence each other.
“We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety,” Dorsey said in his statement Wednesday. “Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.”
Dorsey acknowledged that shows of strength like the Trump ban could set dangerous precedents, even calling them a sign of “failure.”
“Having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications. While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us,” he wrote. “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.”
While Twitter was grappling with the issues with Trump’s account, Apple, Google and Amazon were effectively shutting down the site Parler by denying it access to app stores and cloud-hosting services. The companies charged that Parler wasn’t aggressive enough about removing calls to violence, which Parler has denied.
Dorsey declined to criticize his Big Tech counterparts directly, even noting that “this moment in time might call for this dynamic.” Over the long term, however, he suggested that aggressive and domineering behavior could threaten the “noble purpose and ideals” of the open internet by entrenching the power of a few organizations over a commons that should be accessible to everyone.
The Twitter co-founder, however, had little specific to say about how his platform or other Big Tech companies could avoid such choices in the future.
He did, however, highlight a long-term project to develop an “open decentralized standard for social media.”
But for the moment, Dorsey wrote, Twitter’s goal “is to disarm as much as we can, and ensure we are all building towards a greater common understanding, and a more peaceful existence on earth.”
READ TWITTER CEO JACK DORSEY’S FULL STATEMENT
“I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter, or how we got here. 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. Was this correct?
I believe this was the right decision for Twitter. We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety. Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.
That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications. While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.
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.
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.
This moment in time might call for this dynamic, but over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet. A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same.
Yes, we all need to look critically at inconsistencies of our policy and enforcement. Yes, we need to look at how our service might incentivize distraction and harm. Yes, we need more transparency in our moderation operations. All this can’t erode a free and open global internet.
The reason I have so much passion for #Bitcoin is largely because of the model it demonstrates: a foundational internet technology that is not controlled or influenced by any single individual or entity. This is what the internet wants to be, and over time, more of it will be.
We are trying to do our part by funding an initiative around an open decentralized standard for social media. Our goal is to be a client of that standard for the public conversation layer of the internet. We call it @bluesky:
This will take time to build. We are in the process of interviewing and hiring folks, looking at both starting a standard from scratch or contributing to something that already exists. No matter the ultimate direction, we will do this work completely through public transparency.
It’s important that we acknowledge this is a time of great uncertainty and struggle for so many around the world. Our goal in this moment is to disarm as much as we can, and ensure we are all building towards a greater common understanding, and a more peaceful existence on earth.
I believe the internet and global public conversation is our best and most relevant method of achieving this. I also recognize it does not feel that way today. Everything we learn in this moment will better our effort, and push us to be what we are: one humanity working together.twitter ceo jack dorsey
The Associated Press contributed to this report.