Trump had 88 million followers when Twitter “permanently suspended” him two days after the riot, citing fears he could incite further violence. But the suspension follows years of calls to have her account banned over tweets containing harassment, conspiracy theories and viral lies.
The former Twitter employee said the company was considering adopting a stricter content moderation policy after Trump, during a September 2020 presidential debate, told far-right extremist group the Proud Boys to “take a step back and be ready”.
“My concern was that the former president, for the first time apparently, was directly addressing extremist organizations and giving them directives. We had never seen this kind of direct communication before, and it worried me,” the former employee said.
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But Twitter, the former employee said, ultimately decided not to change, allowing Trump to continue tweeting without restriction. Many of these tweets – including one in December 2020 in which he wrote: “Big protest in DC on Jan 6th. Be there, it’s going to be wild! — were seen by pro-Trump supporters as calls for war, the committee said.
“Twitter relished knowing that it was also the former president’s favorite and most used service and appreciated having that kind of power within the social media ecosystem,” the post said. employee. If Trump had been “any other user on Twitter, he would have been permanently suspended a very long time ago.”
Representative Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) said the former employee worked on a team responsible for platform policies and content moderation in 2020 and 2021. The individual was not named and his voice was masked by voice modulation software.
Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Twitter’s vice president of public policy for the Americas, said in a statement that the company is “clear about our role in the broader news ecosystem” regarding the January 6 attack, but that it “took unprecedented”. measures and invested significant resources to prepare for and respond to the threats that emerged” in the 2020 elections.
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The company, she said, has deployed “numerous policy and product interventions to protect the public conversation,” including declaring the Proud Boys a violent extremist group in 2018 and permanently suspending accounts linked to the group and people. organizers of the Capitol siege.
But the former employee said he had been begging Twitter officials for months “to try to get across that…if we didn’t intervene in what I saw happening, people were going to die.”
“And even if I had tried to create one or put one in place, there was nothing,” added the former employee. “We were at the whim, at the mercy of a violent mob that was locked up and charged.”
Twitter witness: Trump spoke ‘directly’ to extremists
The former Twitter employee said that the day before the riots, they tried unsuccessfully to get the company to intervene by re-reporting violent extremist content on the site.
“When people shoot each other tomorrow, I’ll try to rest knowing we tried,” the former Twitter employee said in an internal Slack message on the night of Jan. 5, 2021. “I don’t know that I slept that night, to be honest with you, I was on pins and needles.
The former employee’s attorneys, Alexis Ronickher and Debra S. Katz of the law firm Katz, Marshall & Banks, in a statement on Tuesday praised the committee for allowing their client to remain anonymous given the strength of the lawsuit. violent extremism.
The revelation sparked great anger among some technology advocates. Rashad Robinson, the president of Color of Change, tweeted that the hearing showed that Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms were complicit in helping Trump supporters stage the bloody uprising. Big Tech “allowed the insurgents to plan their violence”, he said. tweeted.
In a later interview with The Washington Post, Robinson said decisions by social media companies to protect Trump and other powerful leaders from the app after breaking rules against problematic speech had resulted in real-world damage. .
“It’s a choice that these companies make. They can explain it by saying it’s newsworthy, but they’re absolutely making a choice,” he said. “There will always be a reason or an excuse for it. But often the reason or excuse is that they are looking for an easy fix for not doing the right thing. They get their hands on the scales of powerful people who create evil.
Facebook faced similar criticism last year when it was revealed that it maintained a separate program that allowed Trump and others to be exempt from the platform’s posting rules. Facebook’s own oversight board slammed the platform for downplaying the program’s reach until it was revealed by a trove of internal documents shared by a whistleblower with the Wall Street Journal.
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Twitter insiders argued that the company’s platform was just one way Trump amplified his rhetoric on the world stage. But Twitter was by far his most important: his Facebook account, which was also suspended after the January 6 riots, has 34 million followers. His account on Truth Social, the fledgling Twitter clone he created after his ban, is around 3 million.
Trump’s 56,571 tweets between 2009 and 2021 have often been retweeted hundreds of thousands of times. Trump tweeted 600 times during his first impeachment and, after losing the 2020 election, used the platform for weeks to spread false allegations about how he fell victim to an international vote-stealing plot.
Tuesday’s hearing, which focused on how Trump helped lead far-right groups in Washington before the riots, revealed that Trump’s Dec. 19 tweet followed a “messy” meeting. between White House lawyers and Trump cronies.