Internal Twitter Video Reveals Twitter Bent Over Backwards To Protect Trump And Pro-Trump Insurrectionists
from the still-won't-convince-the-gullible dept
I don’t know how many times it needs to be said, but since so many are still insisting the opposite is true, I guess many more times: Twitter’s moderation policies were not driven by some anti-conservative bias, nor were they pushed by the government to block Trump or his supporters. We have, of course, discussed all this before, but now the Washington Post got its hands on a video recording of an internal Twitter meeting right before the January 6th attack on the Capitol, in which they discussed how to handle the growing calls for violence.
Nothing in the video is surprising, as it all confirms what’s been said before, but it does provide more evidence. The video, and testimony from some people involved in this and related meetings, were part of why the January 6th Committee highlighted just how far Twitter staff bent over backwards to protect Trump and conservatives on the platform.
And, it’s confirming what a former Twitter trust & safety employee testified under oath, about how when they saw a tweet by Donald Trump that clearly violated the site’s policies, the decision Twitter’s leadership made was to rewrite the rules to effectively exempt Trump’s tweet.
That’s not even getting into the many studies, both internal and external to Twitter, that showed no evidence of anti-conservative bias in Twitter’s moderation policies. In fact, Twitter’s own research showed that it favored conservative tweets, with its algorithm promoting them more than non-conservative tweets.
And the new video, again, shows that the company wanted to give every possible leeway to Trump’s supporters, even as some were advocating violence (some of which later occurred):
On Jan. 5, 2021, the lawyers and specialists on Twitter’s safety policy team, which set rules about violent content, were bracing for a day of brutality in Washington. In the weeks since President Donald Trump had tweeted a call for his supporters to gather in the nation’s capital for a protest he promised would be “wild,” the site had erupted with pledges of political vengeance and plans for a military-style assault.
“I am very concerned about what happens tomorrow, especially given what we have been seeing,” one member of the team, Anika Collier Navaroli, said in a video call, the details of which are reported here for the first time. “For months we have been allowing folks to maintain and say on the platform that they’re locked and loaded, that they’re ready to shoot people, that they’re ready to commit violence.”
Some participants in the call pushed the company to adopt a tougher position, arguing that moderators should be able to remove what they called “coded incitements to violence” — messages, such as “locked and loaded,” that could be read as threats. But a senior manager dismissed the idea, saying executives wanted them to take action against only the most flagrant rules violations, adding, “We didn’t want to go too far.”
I think this is actually a fully defensible position, especially as it wasn’t entirely clear how far all the talk would go. But it also blows a big hole in the idea that Twitter was actively seeking to suppress such voices.
The same records that the Post obtained show that Twitter was also very reluctant to suspend Trump:
But the records reveal a company that fought until the end to give some of Trump’s most belligerent supporters the benefit of the doubt, even as its internal teams faced an overwhelming volume of tweets threatening retribution in line with Trump’s lies that the election had been stolen.
They also show that Twitter’s leaders were reluctant to take action against Trump’s account two days after the insurrection, even as lawyers inside the company argued that his continued praise of the Capitol rioters amounted to “glorification of violence,” an offense punishable then by suspension under Twitter’s rules.
And, one more thing: the records suggest that the narrative about the Biden administration (or, at the time, campaign and then transition team) having anything to do with the Trump suspension is false:
None of the records obtained by The Washington Post — including the 32-minute video, a five-page retrospective memo outlining the suspension discussions, and a 114-page agenda document detailing the safety policy team’s meetings and conversations — show any contacts with federal officials pushing the company to take any action involving Trump’s account.
Again, none of this should be a surprise to you if you’ve been following the actual details. Versions of all of this information have come out, repeatedly. Though, these new records provide some more details on what actually happened inside of the company:
On the night of Jan. 6, after law enforcement officials had fought to regain control of the Capitol grounds, Twitter briefly suspended Trump’s account but said it would allow him to return after 12 hours if he deleted three tweets that broke Twitter’s “civic integrity” rules against manipulating or interfering in elections. One tweet included a video in which he called for peace from the “very special” rioters who he said had been “hurt” because the “fraudulent election … was stolen from us.”
The former Twitter executive said the company sent Trump’s representatives an email on Jan. 6 saying that his account would face an immediate ban if he broke another rule and that the executives hoped, with a 12-hour timeout, Trump would “get the message.”
Trump deleted the tweets and, on Jan. 7, posted a conciliatory video in which he said that “this moment calls for healing and reconciliation.” The next day, however, he tweeted a more fiery message about how the “American Patriots” who voted for him would “not be disrespected” and announced that he would not attend Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The documents then discuss the internal back and forth (some of which we’ve already talked about with regards to the — widely misinterpreted — Twitter Files) between employees at Twitter about what to do in response to Trump’s account potentially inspiring violence. As we’ve heard before, and the notes obtained by the Post confirm, there was a somewhat passionate debate internally, with many arguing that his tweets did not go so far as to incite violence, while others argued that Trump’s messages were clearly coded to encourage the January 6th insurrectionists to continue to attack our Democratic institutions.
And, again, there seemed to be back and forth debate, not driven by any political ideology, or with any input from anyone outside the company, debating how to handle the account:
Still, some Twitter executives voiced hesitation about taking down Trump’s account, arguing that “reasonable minds could differ” as to the intentions of Trump’s tweets, according to Navaroli’s document. Twitter had for years declined to hold Trump to the same rules as everyone else on the basis that world leaders’ views were especially important for voters to hear.
At a 2 p.m. video call on Jan. 8, which was described in the document but not viewed by The Post, top officials in Twitter’s trust and safety team questioned the “glorification of violence” argument and debated whether the company should instead wait to act until Trump more blatantly broke the platform’s rules.
Navaroli argued that this course of inaction had “led us to the current crisis situation” and could lead “to the same end result — continued violence and death in a nation in the midst of a sociopolitical crisis,” the document shows.
In another call, around 3:30 p.m., after safety policy team members had compiled examples of tweets in which users detailed plans for future violence, Twitter’s top lawyers and policy officials voiced support for a “permanent suspension” of Trump’s account. One note in the safety policy agenda document read that there was a “team consensus that this is a [violation]” due to Trump’s “pattern of behavior.”
Their assessment was sent to Dorsey and Gadde for final approval and, at 6:21 p.m., Twitter’s policy team was notified over Slack that Trump had been suspended. A company tweet and blog post announced the decision to the world shortly after.
There’s a lot more in the Post’s story, which covers a ton of background info as well. Anyone who is discussing this stuff owes it to themselves to read the whole thing. But it gives yet another stack of evidence confirming what all of the earlier evidence had shown: that Twitter bent over backwards to keep Trump on the platform, that the decision to remove him was deeply debated and focused on issues around fears of actual violence, not political ideology, and that there was no evidence of any interference or involvement from anyone outside of Twitter, let alone anyone associated with the Biden transition team.
And yet, there are still some extremely motivated, ignorant, and/or gullible people out there who believe the opposite is true.
I’m assuming that this new evidence won’t convince them, because they seem to brush off and ignore any evidence that debunk their hallucinations. But, for everyone else, it’s useful reinforcement for what has already been shown to be true.