Twitter employees have accused colleagues of behaving ‘like Nazis following orders’ after site reviewers found then-President Donald Trump did not violate the social media giant’s policy , just hours before it was banned from the platform in 2021, newly released documents show.
Elon Musk’s latest episode of the ‘Twitter Files’, uncovered Monday by freelance journalist Bari Weiss, reveals the chaos behind the scenes as a group of anti-Trump employees pressured top executives to oust the incumbent president . The internal debate was unfolding just days after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, despite a lack of evidence that Mr. Trump had violated Twitter policy.
Mr Trump still had a “strike” on his account before he was permanently banned when, on January 8, 2021, he posted an early morning tweet praising his supporters.
“The 75,000,000 great American patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN will have a GIANT VOICE in the future,” the president wrote at 6:46 a.m. way, shape or form!!!”
Later he posted: “To everyone who asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration [of President Biden] January 20.
The seemingly innocuous posts, according to Ms Weiss, reignited a firestorm on Twitter that had been raging for days.
Employees have taken to internal chat rooms to demand Mr Trump’s dismissal on the grounds that he committed his latest stunt by inciting violence with his morning musings.
Twitter employees accused Mr Trump of using “coded language” and “threading the needle of incitement without breaking the rules”.
“That last sentence…” wrote one employee. “We had to do the right thing here and ban this account.”
“Extraordinary circumstances demand extraordinary leadership,” wrote another.
Early calls to ban the incumbent president, however, were dismissed by senior executives and moderators on the site, in line with Twitter’s longstanding policy against silencing world leaders.
“For years, Twitter has resisted internal and external calls to ban Trump on the grounds that blocking a global leader from the platform or deleting his controversial tweets would hide important information that people should be able to see and discuss,” Ms. Weiss. . “Twitter’s purpose was to ‘protect the public’s right to hear from its leaders and hold them to account’.”
The moderators ruled that the president’s posts that morning did not violate policy.
“I think we would be hard pressed to say this is incitement,” one person wrote. “It’s pretty clear that he’s saying the ‘American Patriots’ are the ones who voted for him and not the terrorist (we can call them that, can’t we) as of Wednesday.”
Twitter policy chief Anika Navaroli wrote: “I also don’t see any clear or coded incitement” in Mr Trump’s tweet.
“I will respond in the election channel and say that our team has assessed and found no [violations],” she wrote.
A few other employees raised concerns that the president’s ban would send the company, and potentially the country, down a dark path.
“Maybe because I’m from China,” an employee wrote on January 7, 2021, the day before Mr. Trump was permanently banned. “I deeply understand how censorship can destroy public conversation.”
“It might be an unpopular opinion, but one-off ad hoc decisions like this that don’t seem rooted in politics are [in my opinion] a slippery slope…,” another junior employee wrote in an internal “site integrity” chat room. “It now seems like an edict from an online platform CEO with a global presence who can keep the talk for the whole world.”
Those concerns, however, were shared by a small minority of employees, Ms. Weiss wrote.
“Many Twitter employees on Slack channels were upset that Trump hadn’t been banned sooner,” she wrote.
The anti-Trump cacophony continued to grow as the day went on, although Mr. Trump posted no additional tweets.
On the afternoon of January 8, 2021, 300 employees had signed an open letter to then-CEO Jack Dorsey demanding that he oust Mr. Trump.
The Washington Post published the letter titled, “We must examine Twitter’s complicity in what President-elect Biden has rightly called an insurgency.”
Others accused their colleagues of behaving like Nazis for not banning Mr. Trump.
“Several tweeps [Twitter employees] cited the banality of evil suggesting that the people implementing our policies are like Nazis following orders,” Twitter’s head of trust and safety Yoel Roth wrote to his colleague.
Twitter’s top lawyer, Vijaya Gadde, has begun probing her staff for a way to cite Mr. Trump with a violation.
“The bigger question is whether a tweet like Trump’s this morning, which is not a violation of the rules on its face, is being used as a coded incitement to more violence,” she said. . “If you have any context or insight that we should consider, I’m all ears.”
She added: “For example the use of the term ‘American Patriots’ and ‘They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way!! “”
An employee replied that Ms. Gadde had presented an “interesting question”.
“I will speak with my team as soon as possible to see if we can do a quick investigation to get reactions to the language continued in the tweet and get back to you,” the employee said.
Ms. Gadde replied that she was concerned about how the use of a poll to make the final decision would be perceived externally.
“I wonder if we have anything in past research that might be relevant,” she wrote.
Employees of the “wide enforcement team” suggested minutes later that the president’s post violated the platform’s “glorification of violence policy.”
“If we consider ‘American Patriots’ to refer to the rioters, they are right,” one employee wrote.
Hours later, the company announced that Mr. Trump had been permanently banned “for inciting violence.”
Internal Twitter chatrooms were filled with cheers after the ruling.
“Thank you all for your impactful work this week, for the discussion and for writing all these comprehensive reviews,” one employee wrote. “I am very proud to work and learn from you every day.”
“Great props to anyone confident and safe sitting there hitting those Trump accounts,” another employee wrote.
The release of Ms. Weiss’ Twitter files on Monday marks the latest installment in a three-part segment revealing what led to Mr. Trump’s ouster from the platform. This is on top of revelations about Twitter’s liberal leanings that led to the censorship of conservative viewpoints and the removal of the Hunter Biden laptop story just weeks before the 2020 presidential election.
The first installment of internal documents from Mr. Musk, released earlier this month, showed how Twitter executives worked to smother the New York Post story on Hunter Biden’s laptop in October 2020.
He also released internal documents showing that Twitter maintains a suite of tools to silence conservative viewpoints on the platform, blacklisting respected talk show hosts, activists and doctors for limit the visibility of their accounts.
The relentless drip of revelations, confirming a long-suspected push inside Twitter to silence dissenting and often conservative voices, has drawn backlash from across the political spectrum in Washington.
House Republicans have announced plans to summon former Twitter executives to get to the bottom of the Twitter Files revelations.
Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, who will become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he intends to receive testimony from former Twitter executives and employees blacklisted from conservative Twitter accounts. the company.
Republicans are also offering a list of bills that would address social media censorship, including legislation that would remove liability protections for companies that censor constitutionally protected speech on their platforms.
Some Democrats have also sounded the alarm over Twitter censorship revealed in the Twitter files.
Rep. Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” that the company’s decision to censor the Hunter Biden laptop story “offends the basic principles on which our country is based”.
He said he was open to congressional hearings on the matter.
Since taking over Twitter, Mr. Musk has reinstated Mr. Trump’s account. But the former president did not use it, preferring to post comments on his Truth Social platform.