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Twitter boss: Trump ban is ‘right’ but ‘dangerous’

By James Clayton

North America technology reporter


image copyrightGetty Images

image captionTwitter’s chief executive Jack Dorsey

Twitter boss Jack Dorsey has said banning US President Donald Trump was the right thing to do.

However, he expressed sadness at what he described as the “extraordinary and untenable circumstances” surrounding Mr Trump’s permanent suspension.

He also said the ban was in part a failure of Twitter’s, which hadn’t done enough to foster “healthy conversation” across its platforms.

Twitter has been praised and criticised for freezing Mr Trump’s account.

German leader Angela Merkel and Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador – neither an ally of the outgoing US president – spoke out against the tech titan’s move.

In a long Twitter thread, Twitter’s chief said he did not celebrate or feel pride in the ban – which came after the Capitol riot last week.

I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter, or how we got here. After a clear warning we’d take this action, we made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter. Was this correct?

— jack (@jack) January 14, 2021

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

He reiterated that removing the president from Twitter was made after “a clear warning” to Mr Trump.

“We made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter,” Mr Dorsey said.

He also accepted that the move would have consequences for an open and free internet.

“Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation. They divide us….And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous.”

media captionPolice place US Capitol Building on lockdown after Trump supporters breached security lines

He also addressed criticism that just a handful of tech bosses can make decisions on who does and doesn’t have a voice on the internet – and on accusations of censorship.

“A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same,” said Mr Dorsey.

The decision to remove users, posts and tweets has been criticised by some for violating First Amendment – free speech – rights.

However, big tech firms generally argue that as they are private companies, and not state actors, this law does not apply when they moderate their platforms.

Facebook and YouTube have taken steps to silence the president, while Amazon shut down Parler, an app widely used by his supporters.

Now Snapchat has also announced that Mr Trump will be permanently banned from its platform too.

It had already announced an indefinite suspension, but has now decided that “in the interest of public safety and based on his attempts to spread misinformation, hate speech, and incite violence” to permanently terminate his account.

On Monday, the German chancellor’s spokesperson said she found the social media ban “problematic”. And the Mexican president said: “I don’t like anybody being censored.”

Incoming US President-elect Joe Biden has said he wants companies like Facebook and Twitter to do more to take down hate speech and fake news.

He has previously said he wants to repeal Section 230, a law protecting social media companies from being sued for the things people post.

It’s not clear how Mr Biden intends to regulate Big Tech, though it’s likely to be a legislative focus of his.

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