Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, here last October, used a series of tweets to discuss the decision to ban President Trump’s personal account. Photo:
Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Jack Dorsey defended the company’s decision to ban President Trump’s personal account, but expressed concern about the risks of companies’ having too much power over public discussion.
In a series of tweets late Wednesday, Mr. Dorsey said that the usual check on any one platform’s content regulation is that people can go elsewhere. “This concept was challenged last week when a number of foundational internet-tool providers also decided not to host what they found dangerous,” he wrote. While the actions might be justified in the current moment, he added, “over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet.”
Tech companies continue to roll out limits on Mr. Trump’s online options. Snapchat parent Snap Inc., which locked his account indefinitely last week, said Wednesday it would ban him permanently as of Jan. 20 in the interest of public safety and based on his attempts to spread misinformation and hate speech and to incite violence.
On Tuesday, YouTube suspended Mr. Trump’s channel. The video-sharing unit of Alphabet Inc.’s Google said it was locking the channel for at least seven days after the company removed videos it said violated its policies against content it believes could incite violence.
Facebook Inc. last week suspended Mr. Trump indefinitely—at least through the rest of his term—and Twitter banned him permanently, after pro-Trump rioters invaded the U.S. Capitol and threatened lawmakers. Several other prominent technology companies have also taken steps to limit posts by Mr. Trump and others they feel may be inciting more violence.
“Our goal in this moment is to disarm as much as we can,” Mr. Dorsey said in one of the tweets Wednesday.
Mr. Trump and others have criticized the bans and suspensions as censorship that reflects bias against conservatives. Other people have said the actions were warranted, given the incendiary nature of some of Mr. Trump’s comments and his encouragement of those involved in last week’s riot.
Mr. Trump and his lawyers have made unsubstantiated claims of election fraud since the presidential contest in November. On Jan. 6 he repeated the claims and called on Vice President Mike Pence to reject the election results in a joint session of Congress certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Soon after, some Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.
Mr. Dorsey said Twitter’s decision was justified, given Wednesday’s events. “We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety,” he wrote in Wednesday’s tweets. “Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.”
But he said that banning an account “has real and significant ramifications. While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.” Instead, he wrote, bans fragment that public conversation.
“They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning,” Mr. Dorsey wrote, adding that a ban “sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”
Write to Liz Wollman at [email protected]
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Appeared in the January 14, 2021, print edition as ‘Dorsey Voices Concern on Precedent.’