Big Tech is rapidly becoming the arbiter of speech on the internet, as evidenced in recent undercover videos from James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas. Reportedly, 70,000 accounts have been purged from Twitter alone since the Capitol Hill protest on Jan. 6. The vast majority of those accounts are, by Twitter’s own admission, associated with QANON types of accounts—which are accounts that may typically espouse a more conservative perspective. Many of the permanently banned accounts, however, including the one referenced by Editor-in-Chief for UncoverDC, Tracy Beanz, had nothing to do with QANON and were permanently suspended without notice. Several high-profile accounts that were also banned without notice or recourse were those owned by lawyer Sidney Powell and General Michael Flynn, among others.
Twitter announced the permanent suspension of the President’s account on Jan. 8, “in the context of horrific events” at the Capitol. An excerpt of their statement is below:
“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.”
A series of Tweets posted by Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, rationalizes his decision to permanently ban the President’s account:
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
O’Keefe released a video on Jan. 14 that shows an insider’s video of Dorsey explaining his “full retro” review of his platform that will be “much bigger than just one account [President Trump’s] and is going to go on much longer than just this day…to go on beyond the inauguration,” chilling words in a country that has long valued its first amendment rights. He mentions QANON accounts, associating them with “ties to real-world violence” and the dynamics of how speech from those accounts might “play out over time.” He argues that the U.S. is extremely divided, and his platform shows that, so his mission will be to “protect the integrity of that conversation” to make sure no one “is being harmed based off that.”
Another Veritas undercover video emerged Monday showing one of Twitter’s top executives, Vijaya Gadde, the Legal Policy Trust and Safety officer for Twitter. She speaks about the tweets that led to President Trump’s permanent ban on the platform, as well as the company’s plans for censorship on a global scale.
Twitter initially put the President in a temporary time out. In that context, she lays her foundational rationale for future decisions, “Whether we believe Trump’s tweets are inciting violence and having real-world harm, I think we’ve seen that, in fact, they are.” She acknowledges that President Trump attempted “to de-escalate the situation” after coming back from his time-out. However, apparently, his actions were not adequate to prevent his ban in the days that followed. A statement from the President before his suspension can be found below.
The video that spurred the temporary suspension from Twitter was posted on Jan. 6 as the Capitol was in lockdown with Congress inside. The minute-long video spoke sympathetically to those who were in attendance at the Capitol that day. He mentioned the pain of the “fraudulent election” but encouraged people to leave in peace. “I know your pain, I know you’re hurt,” Trump said. “But you have to go home now, we have to have peace. We have to have law and order, we have to respect our great people in law and order.”
Gadde proceeds to speak about the company’s plans to build upon the work they are doing in the U.S. with intentions to install those policies on a global scale. She explains that the policies will revolve around violence that is unfolding globally “as a result of misleading information or coded rhetoric.” She says that they are also applying what they are learning in global markets and applying “those learnings” in the U.S. Also discussed were the many inputs from employees who felt that the temporary suspension of the President’s account was not commensurate with the violation. She said that these decisions are “judgment calls” that resulted in a “robust” discussion on behalf of the leadership at Twitter. She also explains that there needs to be an attempt to “give adamant notice before we take a very aggressive step like permanent suspension.”
Notably, the President’s accounts and videos were all removed from Facebook and YouTube following the Twitter ban. Facebook reinstated his account on Jan. 15, but he has not used it since the ban.
Jason Miller, a Trump Senior advisor, tweeted on Monday that a “reckoning is coming” for Big Tech companies, some of which have already seen substantial losses in the market. He says there will be a public backlash because many Americans think that if the President of the United States can be censored, their right to free speech is not far behind.
2/3 74% of Battleground State voters agree that if Twitter, Facebook and Google can censor and take away the President’s right to free speech, they can take away the right to free speech for any American…https://t.co/pg0FqdoIVR
— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) January 18, 2021
On Sunday, Alex Stamos, the former chief security officer at Facebook, during an appearance on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” said the following:
“We have to turn down the capability of these conservative influencers to reach these huge audiences. There are people on YouTube, for example, that have a larger audience than daytime CNN, and they are extremely radical and pushing extremely radical views. So it’s up to the Facebooks and YouTubes, in particular, to think about whether or not they want to be effectively cable networks for disinformation.”
He then named two conservatives news outlets he thinks are problematic and should be targeted as soon as possible, “We’re gonna have to figure out the OANN and Newsmax problem,” he said. The spot was particularly chilling because Stamos says people now have too much leeway in their choices for information.
“People have so much choice now. They can choose what their news sources are. They can choose what influencers they want to follow, and they can try to seal out anything that helps them question that…it gets to a really core issue of our freedoms as Americans, and the way we have treated press freedom in the past is being abused by these actors. In that, we have given a lot of leeway in the traditional media and on social media to people who have a very broad range of political views, and it is now in the great economic interest of those individuals to become more and more radical.” He directly references OANN and Newsmax as those radical “actors” because they are to the “right” of Fox News.