The suspension of Donald Trump by social media platforms has taken the world by storm. Leaders around the world, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, have condemned the suspension by Twitter and called it ‘problematic’.
There is a growing consensus that the actions were motivated by political bias rather than any objective criterion. Amidst such a scenario, Twitter stocks stumbled by as much as 10% on Monday. Under such circumstances, the precise justification offered by Twitter for suspending Donald Trump from the platform went largely unnoticed.
And as it turns out, the justification cited by Twitter is absolutely bizarre and even Twitter does not say that they have interpreted Trump’s tweets as incitement to violence. Twitter does not say that at all. Instead, the social media platform claims that two of Trump’s tweets are being “interpreted” to mean an endorsement of violence. That is, Donald Trump has been banned from the platform because how others, unnamed in the statement, are interpreting his tweets.
The Tweets that prompted Twitter to ban Donald Trump
There are two tweets that have been cited as violation of its policies. But, as can be seen, it nowhere encourages, incites, or endorses violence in any shape or form. The first of the January 8 tweets read, “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
The second, tweeted shortly after by Donald Trump, said, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.” It is not clear where precisely these tweets encourage violence. And it is abundantly clear from Twitter’s statement that the platform itself does not interpret it as an incitement to violence.
Twitter said in its statement, “Due to the ongoing tensions in the United States, and an uptick in the global conversation in regards to the people who violently stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, these two Tweets must be read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President’s statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent weeks.”
“After assessing the language in these Tweets against our Glorification of Violence policy, we have determined that these Tweets are in violation of the Glorification of Violence Policy and the user @realDonaldTrump should be immediately permanently suspended from the service,” it added.
The assessment by Twitter
The assessment makes it abundantly clear that the US President was suspended from the platform because of how a section of his supporters is interpreting his tweets. Twitter does not say which supporters were interpreting the tweets as an endorsement of violence or if the number of people interpreting it in such a manner was significant enough to warrant a suspension.
It does not even say what metric it used to reach such a conclusion. It is abundantly clear that Twitter decided to suspend Donald Trump because they wanted to and were merely looking for an excuse to permanently suspend his account.
The reasons cited include the “use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters is also being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the US Capitol” and the “mention of his supporters having a “GIANT VOICE long into the future” and that “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” is being interpreted as further indication that President Trump does not plan to facilitate an “orderly transition” and instead that he plans to continue to support, empower, and shield those who believe he won the election.”
In the end, it was decided that the only reasonable course of action was the suspension of his Twitter account.