- Republicans have argued that Twitter had a liberal bias and was quick to censor conservatives.
- Records obtained by WaPo show how Twitter’s management hesitated to ban Trump after Jan. 6, 2021.
- Trump was suspended two days later and reinstated after Elon Musk took over the company.
Twitter executives and management were hesitant to ban Donald Trump after the January 6 riot, undercutting the narrative held by some Republicans that the social media platform was quick to censor conservative voices.
Internal company records obtained and reviewed by The Washington Post showed that Twitter executives initially did not want to take down posts that the company’s safety policy team viewed as “coded incitements to violence” or even suspend Trump after the events of the Capitol riot.
In a video call on January 5, 2021, members of the safety policy team were pushing the company to adopt stronger rules around those coded messages — posts like one that said people were “locked and loaded” — to prepare for the day of President Joe Biden’s election certification. After his election loss, Trump tweeted to his followers in December that “WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT” and that January 6 “will be wild!”
However, the Post reported a senior manager declined to pursue the idea and said company executives wanted to stick with more blatant rule violations.
“We didn’t want to go too far,” the manager said, according to the Post.
Twitter executives were also reluctant to ban Trump two days after the Capitol riot, which left five people dead and about 140 police officers injured, despite direction from the company’s safety policy team and growing concerns from employees.
Some argued that “reasonable minds could differ” on what Trump meant by his tweets, according to an internal document prepared by Anika Collier Navaroli, who testified before the January 6 panel, the Post reported. The document was intended to record the company’s decision-making process.
Twitter ultimately decided to ban Trump on January 8, 2021, following in the footsteps of other social media platforms.
Republican leaders and Twitter owner Elon Musk balked at the decision to ban Trump and have argued that the company had a liberal bias, blatantly censoring conservative voices.
Last year, Musk provided internal company documents to a select group of journalists to publish the Twitter Files, which set out to demonstrate how Twitter was bent on silencing conservative views. But the records obtained by the Post reveal how Twitter deliberated on handling Trump’s tweets and received pushback before the company took the unprecedented step of kicking a US president off its platform.
On the night of the Capitol riot, Trump was temporarily suspended due to tweets that violated Twitter’s “civic integrity” rules, including one that claimed the election “was stolen from us.”
After removing the tweets, the former president was reinstated, but in the next two days, Trump posted a video and a tweet beckoning to his “great American Patriots” about how “they will not be disrespected or treated unfairly.”
According to the document prepared by Navaroli, the tweets raised alarms but members of Twitter’s safety policy team agreed that the posts did not violate company rules since there was no explicit “call to violence” or “target of abuse.”
However, the safety policy team reassessed their conclusion after internal lawyers, who advised the safety policy team, argued the tweet could have violated Twitter’s rules around “glorification of violence,” the document said, according to the Post.
The lawyers argued that the phrase “American Patriots” could be referring to the rioters who stormed the Capitol, which could then violate Twitter’s policy.
The document also recounted how the lawyers argued that Trump’s tweets should be read in context or within “a continuation and culmination of rhetoric that led to deadly violence days before,” the Post reported.
After members of the safety policy team gathered examples of tweets showing users planning for future violence, Twitter’s lawyers and policy officials supported the suspension of Trump’s account, according to the Post.
Trump was suspended on the evening of January 8. His account was reinstated a month after Musk bought the company.
Twitter responded to Insider’s request for comment with an automated message.
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