How Facebook and Twitter decided to take down Trump’s accounts

Mark Zuckerberg began considering placing an indefinite suspension on President Donald Trump’s Facebook account. On the late night of 6 November, just hours after an uproar by a crowd of presidential supporters.

The Facebook CEO was mostly drawn to the president’s false and inflammatory claims, given the free expression and freshness of Trump’s statements, even as a growing rage from critics both outside and within the company Cited them to be more aggressive. Action.

But the chief operating officer came after a series of conversations with top lieutenants including Sheryl Sandberg, head of policy Monica Bickert, head of global affairs Nick Clegg and Joel Kaplan, the company’s public policy chief and its Republican top envoy in Washington, Zuckerberg Was. To believe that Trump attempted to incite violence in an attempt to incite violence crossed a line before the election, in the name of people familiar with the conversation because the discussions were private.

Earlier on Wednesday, Facebook banned Trump’s account for 24 hours. Now, Zuckerberg was preparing for the possibility of imposing a far more comprehensive ban on the president: one that would last until at least the end of his term.

The next morning, from his vacation home in Kauai, Hawaii, Zuckerberg made a phone call with a group of officers, including Sandberg, Bickert, Clegg, and Kaplan. Unity’s vice president Guy Rosen was on call, along with many others, including public policy director Neil Potts and chief diversity officer Maxine Williams.

Zuckerberg said he had decided that Trump’s attempt to incite violence and undermine the democratic process was the basis for indefinitely. No one disagreed over the call, people familiar with the call said.

Shortly thereafter, Zuckerberg published a Facebook post stating that “the risks of allowing the president to continue using our service during this period are simply too great.”

On the same day, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was considering a more radical move, sources familiar with Twitter’s idea said. Based on Vijaya Gadd’s lawyer, Twitter’s legal head and his most trusted lieutenant, Dorsey believed the appropriate course of action was to permanently ban Trump’s personal account, on the grounds that his ability to post Had presented a risk to public safety. .

Dorsey was in French Polynesia at the time, living far away from the Bay Area in the past year and hunting extensively with other projects: Square, his mobile payment company; Future of cryptocurrency; And a possible acquisition of Jay-Z’s music streaming platform, Tidal. (Dorsey has spent a lot of time with Jay-Z in recent months in both Hawaii and Hampton.)

After a series of conversations with Gerde and other top Twitter executives, Dorsey approved a permanent ban, even though it would later affect reservations on his power too much “global public conversation”. Twitter announced demonetisation on Friday.

The suspension of Facebook and Twitter represented a historic moment for America’s social media giants and the most visible performance to their full power. With a few unilateral decisions, a small group of technical officers deprived the President of the United States of his most influential broadcasting tools to attract the attention of the nation and to cycle the news from his mobile phone at a moment’s notice Reducing their capacity.

For more than four years, Trump had used his social media accounts to run the news cycle, set policy, move markets, and uplift his base, often informing his own allies about his plans Issuing or announcing statements before. Within a short time, he had lost almost all access to his favorite microphone.

Was the first of many companies to take action on Twitter and Facebook. In the days that followed, Google suspended Trump’s YouTube channel, Reddit banned some pro-Trump forums, and Snapchat, which had already limited the president’s activity on his network, announced That it will permanently ban its account starting 20 January. The day of his presidency.

As the suspension went into place, Trump’s presence in the fast-moving news cycle remained relatively low. He has been forced to release videos and statements through the White House Twitter account on Wednesday through the news media, official press releases and, which has 26 million followers, through his personal account, to a audience of listeners Is less than a third. (Twitter stated that Trump’s use of the White House account did not violate its ban.) Otherwise, the president might have been heard.

Officials on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere believe they have taken the right decision in enforcing these restrictions, but they also have reservations about their own power.

A Facebook executive involved in deliberations about the suspension of Trump’s account said, “The cost of this decision is highlighted by the fact that a small group of individuals get to make those decisions.”

But platforms were not the only companies to explain how the power of the Internet is focused. Shortly after Facebook and Twitter suspended the president’s accounts, even more central companies on the Internet exerted their power to protest: popular socials among Trump supporters for failing to stop violent speech by Apple and Google Removed the networking app Parler. , And Amazon stopped hosting the app on its AWS web-hosting service. Parler’s Chief Executive Officer John Mattez said on Wednesday that the app, claiming 12 million users, could never return.

In a long Twitter thread this week, Dorsey said that a person or corporation has a part of global public interaction, highlighting that the president’s Twitter decision to impose sanctions could set a “dangerous” precedent. is.”

But he also pointed to companies that hold more control than their own platforms.

“This moment in time may call for this dynamic, but in the long run it will be disastrous for the great purpose and ideals of the open Internet,” Dorsey said of the decisions of Apple, Google and Amazon. “A business decision-making company to liberalize itself is different from removing access by a government, yet can feel a lot.”

The president and his allies have also raised alarm over these steps. The president, in a video posted on the official White House Twitter account on Wednesday, “criticized efforts to censor, cancel and blacklist our fellow citizens.”

Democratic lawmakers, including those who have long criticized the growing power of large tech firms, appear less troubled by the actions of platforms against Trump and his supporters. They note that the First Amendment does not prevent private businesses from deciding what it hosts on their platforms and they appreciate the suspension – even if they believe they should have been earlier.

“Platts are companies. They have user agreements,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va’s spokesman, Rachel Cohen, a vocal advocate for greater regulation of big technology. “When someone violates the standards of the platform they should be held accountable.”

Both companies have long enacted special rules for Trump and other world leaders on the basis that even the most controversial positions have significant news value. Most of Trump’s controversial posts thus remain on platforms that are sometimes placed behind warning labels, sometimes not.

The Facebook and Twitter decisions were a reaction to the very specific situation, sources in both companies said. One particularly influential actor was inciting violence and threatening the democratic process, and his words were having a demonstrative effect in the real world.

In explaining its ban, Twitter did not merely say that Trump’s words could lead people to violence. It also cited “several indicators” that those words were being “received and understood” as inciting violence.

Now, the precedent has been set. And while these platforms may never again face the terrible and extreme conditions they faced last week, the whole world has seen how powerful tech companies wipe out companies and realize that That these officials can take drastic action if needed – altering the course of world history from a tropical retreat in the Pacific Ocean – without any external laws or guidelines.

“It’s not normal,” one Facebook executive said. “These are exceptional circumstances. We have no policy of what to do if a sitting president begins a coup.”

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