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The revolution will not be tweeted

As Twitter bans the US President, which head of state will be next?

By Ricky Browne

After US President Trump appeared to initiate an attack by his supporters on the US Capitol building last week, Twitter closed his account, denying him access to his main route of speaking to the nation and his supporters.

This may be the biggest punishment Trump has ever endured.

REVIEW

Twitter has banned Trump’s account. Photo: BBC

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said in a statement.

Twitter, which had previously been censoring some of Trump’s tweets had originally only suspended the President’s account for 12 hours – but later decided to apply the maximum penalty.

“In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action. Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open,” Twitter said.

The storming of the Capitol on January 6. Photo: Reuters

“However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things,” Twitter added.

“We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement.”

THE FINAL TWEETS

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

Twitter backed up its decision with an overview of what had happened after the actual attack on the Capitol building on January 6, in which at least five people died, including a police officer.

In its overview, Twitter said:

“On January 8, 2021, President Donald J. Trump Tweeted:

“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”

President Donald Trump looks at his phone during a roundtable with governors on the reopening of America’s small businesses, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Thursday, June 18, 2020, in Washington. Photo: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

“Shortly thereafter, the President Tweeted:

“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

Although these two tweets do not seem to implicate the President in the Captiol attacks, Twitter thought they were incendiary and glorified violence, in violation of their policy.

“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.”

ASSESMENT

Twitter then went on to explain in great detail how they came to their assessment.

“We assessed the two Tweets referenced above under our Glorification of Violence policy, which aims to prevent the glorification of violence that could inspire others to replicate violent acts and determined that they were highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021” Twitter said.

An image doing the rounds on Twitter

“This determination is based on a number of factors, including:

  • President Trump’s statement that he will not be attending the Inauguration is being received by a number of his supporters as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate and is seen as him disavowing his previous claim made via two Tweets (12) by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Dan Scavino, that there would be an “orderly transition” on January 20th.

Twitter did not say how large or small is the suspected number of supporters who interpreted the tweet in that way. Is it two? Is it 20 million?

Twitter added:

  • “The second Tweet may also serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the Inauguration would be a “safe” target, as he will not be attending. 
  • The use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters is also being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the US Capitol.
  • The mention of his supporters having a “GIANT VOICE long into the future” and that “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” is being interpreted as further indication that President Trump does not plan to facilitate an “orderly transition” and instead that he plans to continue to support, empower, and shield those who believe he won the election. 
  • Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021. “

Twitter concluded by saying: “As such, our determination is that the two Tweets above are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so.”

CUT OFF

So although the tweets themselves do not appear to be violent, Twitter takes the position that they can interpreted as being violent or sponsoring violence.

And as a consequence it has cut off the President from his account.

Tweet no more. Photo: BBC

It was the first time Twitter had banned a head of state, but it may not be the last.

Many, many people support this decision by Twitter, and many ask why not before now?

 But its not only the President that is being affected.

Trump and the US Presidency is to Twitter as Franklin D Roosevelt and the US Presidency was to radio.

US President Franklin D Roosevelt gives one of his fireside chats via radio

Using Twitter, Trump was able to speak in an unfiltered way directly to the people any time of the day or night, and let them know the way he was thinking. Often, his thoughts would have been best unexpressed. But it gave the American people a great insight into who he was and how he thought, without the interference of spokesmen or others trying to polish his statements.

And the world media loved it, with journalists reporting daily on his latest tweets – absurd or not.

With more than 88 million followers of his Twitter account, Trump was speaking not only to his supporters but to people who couldn’t stand a bone in his body as well.

Some 74 million Americans voted for Trump in the November 3 general election – more than had ever voted for any previous president – though not more than Joe Biden’s 82 million votes this time round.

But with 88 million followers, it means that Trump had at least 14 million followers who did not vote for him.

A mere fraction of the 74 million people who voted for Trump

So, if all 74 million of his voters followed him on Twitter, it can be assumed that 14 million other people chose to follow him to see what he was thinking, to keep an eye on him or to be entertained.

With several thousands of tweets over the years, Trump wasn’t only the most prolific head of state on Twitter, he was probably one of the most prolific tweeters ever.

The only political figure to have more followers than Trump was Barack Obama. But Trump way out tweeted Obama, and his tweets got way more attention too.

REVOLUTIONARY TACTICS

But now the question must be how reliable is Twitter for people who want to forment a revolution.

The Arab Spring hit Yemen in 2011

Some 10 years ago, Twitter was in the forefront of the Arab Spring, where young people tried to overthrow their governments and to force through democracy.

That was really the movement which sprang Twitter upon the world stage, displaying the power it had to bring political change on a wide scale.

Later, Trump, as we have seen, used Twitter to by-pass the established media to speak directly to the people. Many assumed that this would be the way for future presidents as well.

But now, Twitter’s late action to suppress the President’s freedom of speech has demonstrated that the social media platform is not reliable. That it will not be an ally to any movement that it does not itself support.

As a result, Joe Biden is even less likely to use Twitter as prolifically as his predecessor.

As a result future popular uprisings may look to different social media platforms to broadcast their live videos and plans.

The Arab Spring took place in many countries across the Arabia and Northern Africa

Through the ballot, the American people voted out Trump.

Some have expressed the belief that this late action by Twitter only days before Trump has to leave office is a desperate attempt to protect themselves from a congress that will be completely controlled by the Democrat party, and which may want to punish Twitter for enabling the President during his time in office.

But by doing this, Twitter has demonstrated that it has greater power than even the President of the United States when it comes to freedom of speech. That it can turn off its social media megaphone whenever it wants.

If Twitter does not approve of your revolution, you will be locked down.

As such, it has proven itself to be unreliable.

If the next revolution is against billionaire social media platform owners, will Twitter allow its platform to be used? Probably not.

Twitter is a private business, so therefore it would appear that it can decide who it wants to do business with.

But it is unlikely that any head of state will rely on Twitter to the same extent as Trump did. And it is likely that governments will now seek to use state-owned mechanisms to broadcast their views to a greater extent.

Will there be an upsurge for Parler?

It is also likely that newer platforms that have less regulations, and therefore greater freedom, will now have a field day. Parler and Signal are two such companies, that may now see a surge of new users. Well, maybe not Parler, as the site has now been banned by Amazon, Apple and Google — but that’s another story.

And another story in the future may be whatever legal action President Trump takes against Twitter.

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