SAN FRANCISCO – Jack Dorsey, executive director of Twitter, who is working remotely on a private island in French Polynesia is regularly caught by celebrities escaping from paparazzi when a phone call interrupts him entering January 6.
On the line is Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s leading safety attorney and expert, with real-world updates. She said she and other company executives decided to temporarily lock President Trump’s account to prevent him from posting statements that could incite more violence after a mob stormed the US Capitol that day.
Mr. Dorsey is concerned about the move, two people with knowledge of the call said. For four years, he has resisted liberalists and others’ demands that Twitter terminated Mr. Trump’s account, arguing that the platform is where world leaders can speak. , even if their views are disgusting. But he delegated censorship decisions to 46-year-old Gadde, often postponed to her — and he did so again.
Mr. Dorsey, 44, has not made his suspicions public. The next day, he liked and shared a number of tweets calling for caution over Mr. Trump’s permanent ban. Then, over the next 36 hours, Twitter switched from lifting Mr. Trump’s suspension to permanently closing his account, removing the president from the platform he used to communicate, yet filter, not only with his 88 million followers but also worldwide.
The decision was a punctuation mark for Trump’s presidency, immediately attracting accusations of political bias and fresh scrutiny of the tech industry’s power over speeches. in public. Interviews with dozens of people in Twitter’s current and past insiders over the past week have opened up an opportunity for how it’s done – spurred on by a team of Mr Dorsey’s lieutenants who have surpassed through their boss’s reservations, but only after a deadly rebellion at the Capitol.
After lifting the suspension the next day, Twitter followed the response to Mr. Trump’s tweets on the internet, and executives informed Mr. Dorsey that Mr. Trump’s followers had caught up. His latest messages call for more violence. In a post on the social networking site Parler’s replacement, members of Twitter’s safety team saw a Trump fan urging militiamen to stop President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr from entering the White House and fighting off injustice. Anyone trying to stop them. They say the likelihood of more instability in the real world is too high.
Twitter is also under pressure from its employees, who have for years incited to remove Mr. Trump from the service, as well as lawmakers, tech investors, and others. But while more than 300 employees signed a letter saying Mr. Trump’s account had to be stopped, the decision to ban the president was made before the letter was passed to the executives, two of them said. .
On Wednesday, Mr. Dorsey alluded to the tensions within Twitter. In a string of 13 tweets, he wrote that he “didn’t celebrate or feel proud of our ban @realDonaldTrump“Because” the ban is ultimately a failure of us to promote healthy conversation. “
But Mr. Dorsey added: “This is the right decision for Twitter. “We are faced with an extraordinary and unavoidable situation that forces us to focus all of our actions on public safety”.
Mr. Dorsey, Ms. Gadde and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Since Mr. Trump was banned, many of Mr Dorsey’s concerns about the move have been realized. Twitter has been drawn into a heated debate about the power of technology and the irresponsibility of companies.
Lawmakers like Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican from California, were opposed to Twitter, while Silicon Valley venture capitalists, First Amendment scholars and the Freedom Coalition The American civilians also criticized the company. At the same time, activists around the world have accused Twitter of following a double standard of cutting off Mr. Trump but not tyrannical elsewhere using the platform to bully opponents.
“This is an extraordinary exercise of power aimed at bringing down the president of the United States,” said Evelyn Douek, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who focuses on the online speech. “It will lay out a broader calculation.”
Mr. Trump, who joined Twitter in 2009, was a boon and hardship for the company. His tweets have attracted attention to Twitter, which sometimes struggles to attract new users. But his false assertions and threats online have also led critics to say that the site has allowed him to spread lies and incite harassment.
Many of Twitter’s more than 5,400 employees object to Mr Trump’s presence on the platform. In August 2019, shortly after a gunman killed more than 20 people at Walmart in El Paso, Twitter called for a staff meeting to discuss the gunman, in an online statement, repeated many views that Mr. Trump has posted on Twitter.
At the meeting, known as “Flock Talk”, several employees said Twitter was “complicit in” giving Mr. Trump a loudspeaker to “blow the whistle” to his supporters, two attendees for know. The employees pleaded with the executives to make the change before more people were injured.
Over time, Twitter becomes more proactive about political content. In October 2019, Mr. Dorsey ended all political advertising on the site, saying he worries such advertisements have “substantial dispersion that today’s democratic structure may not be standardized on. to be dealt with. “
But Mr. Dorsey, an advocate of freedom of speech, refused to remove the world’s leaders’ writings, because he believed they were credible. Since Twitter announced that year that it would spend more time with world leaders who broke its rules, the company deleted their tweets just once: March Last year, they deleted messages from the Brazilian and Venezuelan presidents advertising false cures for the coronavirus. Mr. Dorsey is against rejection, said someone with knowledge of his thoughts.
Mr. Dorsey has pushed for a solution in the middle: label the tweets of world leaders if the posts violate Twitter policies. In May, when Mr. Trump posted inaccurate information about voting by mail, Mr. Dorsey allowed Twitter to begin labeling presidential messages.
After the November 3 election, Mr. Trump tweeted that it was stolen from him. Within a few days, Twitter labeled about 34% of his tweets and retweets, according to a New York Times census.
Then came the Capitol hurricane.
On January 6, when Congress met to certify the election, Twitter executives celebrated the acquisition of Ueno, a design and branding firm. Mr. Dorsey, who regularly goes on retreat, has come to the South Pacific island, said people knowledgeable about his position.
When Mr. Trump used Twitter to lash out Vice President Mike Pence and question the election results, the company added a warning to his tweets. Then, when violence broke out at the Capitol, people urged Twitter and Facebook to take Mr. Trump completely offline.
That has led to virtual discussions between some of Mr. Dorsey’s lieutenants. This group includes Ms. Gadde, an attorney who joined Twitter in 2011; Del Harvey, vice president for reliability and safety; and Yoel Roth, head of site integrity. Ms. Harvey and Mr. Roth helped build the company’s responses to spam, harassment, and election interference.
Those with knowledge of the discussions said executives decided to suspend Mr. Trump because his comments seemed to excite the crowd. Mrs. Gadde then called Mr. Dorsey, who was dissatisfied, they said.
Mr. Trump is not completely banned. If he deletes some of the tweets that have provoked the crowd, there will be a 12-hour pause. Then he can post again.
After Twitter locked Mr. Trump’s account, Facebook did the same. Snapchat, Twitch and others also put limits on Mr. Trump.
But Mr. Dorsey is not sold under Mr. Trump’s permanent ban. He emailed staff the next day, saying it was important for the company to stay consistent with its policies, including allowing users to come back after the suspension.
Many workers, afraid that history would not sympathize with them, were unhappy. Some have called for IBM’s cooperation with the Nazis, said current and former Twitter employees, and started petitioning for the removal of Trump’s account immediately.
That same day, Facebook banned Mr. Trump for at least the end of his term. But he returned to Twitter that evening with a video saying there would be a peaceful transfer of power.
However, by the next morning, Mr. Trump was back. He tweeted that his base will have “GIANT VOICE” and that he will not be attending the inauguration on January 20.
Twitter’s safety team immediately saw Trump fans, who said the president had abandoned them, posted about further unrest, said people with knowledge of the matter. . In a Parler statement reviewed by the safety team, one user said anyone who opposed “American lovers” like he should leave Washington or risk physical harm during the inauguration function.
The safety team has already begun drafting an analysis of tweets and whether they form the basis for Trump’s launch, the people said.
Around noon in San Francisco that day, Mr. Dorsey called for a staff meeting. Some coerced him on why Mr. Trump was not banned permanently.
Mr. Dorsey reiterated that Twitter should be consistent with its policies. But he said he drew a line in the sand that the president could not cross otherwise Mr. Trump would lose his account privileges, people with knowledge of the event said.
After the meeting, Mr. Dorsey and other executives agreed that Mr. Trump’s tweets that morning – and the reactions they provoked – crossed that line, residents said. They said the employee’s letter demanding that Mr. Trump be removed had been forwarded.
Within hours, Mr. Trump’s account was gone, except for the label “Account suspended”. He tried tweeting from the @POTUS account, which is the official account of the president of the United States, as well as others. But at every turn, Twitter prevented him by pulling the messages down.
Several Twitter employees, fearing the outrage of Trump supporters, have now put their Twitter accounts private and removed mentions about their owners from their online profiles, four said. Some executives have been assigned personal security.
Twitter has also expanded its campaign to crack down on accounts that incite violence. Over the weekend it removed more than 70,000 supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which claimed that Mr. Trump was fighting a group of Satan-worshiping pedophiles.
On Wednesday, employees gathered mostly to discuss the decision to ban Mr. Trump, two attendees said. Some are grateful for Twitter’s action, while others are eager to leave the Trump era. Many were touched; some cried.
That afternoon, Mr. Trump turned to Twitter again, this time using the official @WhiteHouse account to share a video saying he condemns violence – but also denounces what he calls restrictions on freedom of speech. Comment. Twitter allows video to stay online.
An hour later, Mr. Dorsey tweeted his annoyance about deleting Mr. Trump’s online accounts. It “sets a precedent that I feel is dangerous: the power of an individual or a corporation over a part of global public conversation,” he wrote.
But he concluded, “Everything we learn in this moment will improve our efforts and motivate us to become like ourselves: one humanity working together.”