There’s a chorus of liberal voices who argue that Twitter needs to hurry up and just ban Donald Trump already.
Some make the case that Trump uses the social network to incite attacks against individuals, a flagrant violation of the social network’s rules.
Others argue the US president should be booted off for political reasons, because the act would “hurt him” and challenge his agenda.
And others still say that his tweets risk upsetting the geopolitical order, and he should be banned before he accidentally incites a nuclear war via Twitter.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has heard these calls — and the answer’s no.
In a wide-reaching interview with Backchannel, the 40-year-old executive defended Trump’s continued presence on Twitter, saying: “I think it’s really important that we maintain open channels to our leaders, whether we like what they’re saying or not, because I don’t know of another way to hold them accountable. Any time we have any leader tweet, including Trump, there’s a very interesting and thriving conversation. A mixture of fact checking, disagreement, agreement, and some random things.”
Interestingly, Dorsey argues that Twitter isn’t guilty of a double standard when it comes to Trump — because of the “newsworthiness” of his tweets.
I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2012
“We are going to hold all accounts to the same standards. Our policy does [account for] newsworthiness as well, and that was requested by our policy team,” Dorsey said, when asked if he could consider a tweet from Trump “unacceptable” and banworthy.
“So we’re not taking something down that people should be able to report on and actually show that this is what the source said. It’s really important to make sure that we provide that source for the right reporting, and to minimise bias in articles.”
In other words: Trump is the president of the United States, which makes whatever he says (or tweets) significant, and Twitter believes it has a responsibility to let people see those pronouncements.
As a business, Twitter is struggling. But Donald Trump’s compulsive use of the social network means it has taken on an outsize role in American political life. The caustic US president tweets at all hours — one moment threatening North Korea, the next lambasting his critics, as the media hangs on his every word.
For years, Twitter has been plagued by an endemic harassment problem. The company now says it is attempting to curb the issue, and has made a number of high-profile bans of users as it talks tough on the issue, notably controversial journalist Milo Yiannopoulos. (Disclosure: I wrote for a site owned by Yiannopoulos in 2013.) This has let some to argue that Trump is guilty of similar infractions, and deserves the boot.
But banning Trump is, it seems, a bridge too far for Twitter.