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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Just one person at Twitter stood up to say Trump should NOT be banned

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Only one Twitter employee said Donald Trump should not be banned and warned then-CEO Jack Dorsey, who was on vacation in French Polynesia, that he was ‘gatekeeping speech for the entire world.’ 

The latest Twitter leaks from journalist Michael Shellenberger revealed what went on at the social media company in the aftermath of the deadly January 6 Capitol riot that resulted in booting former President Trump from the platform. 

As Twitter made its decision, the files showed that a single, junior worker voiced their opposition, warning Dorsey and their coworkers about the free speech implications.

‘This might be an unpopular opinion but one off ad hoc decisions like this that don’t appear rooted in policy are imho a slippery slope and reflect an alternatively equally dictatorial problem,’ the employee said about banning Trump. 

‘This now appears to be a fiat by an online platform CEO with a global presence that can gatekeep speech for the entire world –  which seems unsustainable.’ 

The employee specified that their concerns were fueled by Trump’s suspension from Facebook, saying that booting the president from the most popular social media sites was dangerous. 

‘That’s the space that fills with the idea (conspiracy theory?) that all social media heads and internet moguls at every layer sit around like kings casually deciding what people can and cannot see, and it’s unhelpful to the internet ecosystem as a whole.’  

The latest Twitter files released on Saturday night revealed that a sole junior employee spoke out against banning Donald Trump from the platform, warning then-CEO Jack Dorsey that it makes it seem like he and other tech CEOs are gatekeeping free speech

The latest Twitter files released on Saturday night revealed that a sole junior employee spoke out against banning Donald Trump from the platform, warning then-CEO Jack Dorsey that it makes it seem like he and other tech CEOs are gatekeeping free speech

Shellenberger also tweeted screengrabs of messages between Twitter executives, with one appearing eager to ban Trump as they discussed stricter policy changes with former safety chief Yoel Roth. 

The person, whose name was redacted, specifically asked Roth if a new change regarding penalties over ‘incitement of violence’ would ‘affect our approach to Trump.’ 

Although Roth said it didn’t, the former president was canned the following day, on January 8, specifically over ‘risk of further incitement of violence.’

The newest batch of Twitter documents – now known as the ‘Twitter files’ – comes after yesterday’s leaks where it was revealed that FBI agents pressured the social media company to censor conservative commentators who pushed unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Jack Dorsey

Yoel Roth

In the direct aftermath of the deadly January 6 Capitol Riot, Jack Dorsey (left) was on vacation in French Polynesia and delegated much of the decision making to Yoel Roth, then-head of safety and trust, who navigated the process to ban Trump

After two days of chaos at Twitter, with several employees appearing eager to boot the former president, Trump finally saw his account suspended on January 8

After two days of chaos at Twitter, with several employees appearing eager to boot the former president, Trump finally saw his account suspended on January 8

In the latest Twitter files, Shellenberger noted that Twitter had long-resisted calls to ban Trump, explaining in 2018 that banning a world leader would be problematic. 

However, everything changed following the January 6 Capitol riot, which resulted in the death of five people as rioters stormed the Congressional building. 

The former president was accused of inciting the riot, and many called on Twitter to permanently ban him. 

Shellenberger said files showed that Doresy was on vacation at the time and delegated much of the work to Roth, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, and Vijaya Gadde, head of legal, policy and trust. 

While Dorsey appeared to be hands-off on the issue, he did email employees telling them to ‘remain consistent in its policies.’ 

Roth and other employees, however, don’t appear satisfied, according to their messages on January 7, with the former safety head saying employees are not happy about the company’s lack of action against Trump. 

‘A few engineers have reached out to me directly about it, and I’m chatting with them, but it’s so clear they just want to know that someone is doing something about this, and it’s not that we’re ignoring the issues here,’ Roth wrote. 

The employee on the other end, whose name is redacted, replied: ‘I think there’s also an opportunity to help people understand that, while it seems obvious and simple that we ‘should’ permaban his personal account, we can’t afford to take that immediate action without first ‘playing the movie out’ and anticipating all the other things that can happen, and then figure out the plans for those possible scenarios.’ 

While executives appeared to be mulling their options, Roth messaged a coworker the following day, revealing that Dorsey ‘just approved repeat offender for civic integrity.’ 

The rule would create a system where five violations would result in permanent suspension. 

‘Progress,’ the employee replied in excitement. ‘Does this affect our approach to Trump, who I think that we publicly said had one remaining strike? Or does the incitement to violence aspect change that calculus?’ 

Roth, however, said that Trump ‘continues to have his one strike,’ which would have kept his account safe. 

But the account was still banned due to that very ‘risk of further incitement of violence.’  

Messages between Roth and employees showed that they were dissatisfied with Dorsey's initial approach on Trump. Employees wanted to take initiative to ban his account, but Roth and an unnamed staffer noted that it was important to wait and see how things play out first

Messages between Roth and employees showed that they were dissatisfied with Dorsey’s initial approach on Trump. Employees wanted to take initiative to ban his account, but Roth and an unnamed staffer noted that it was important to wait and see how things play out first 

The following day, Roth appears excited when telling a staffer that a change has now been enacted to ban an account after five strikes

The following day, Roth appears excited when telling a staffer that a change has now been enacted to ban an account after five strikes 

The employee immediately asks if it means Trump would get the boot, but Roth notes that the former president only has a single strike against him at the time

The employee immediately asks if it means Trump would get the boot, but Roth notes that the former president only has a single strike against him at the time

As the decision to ban Trump approached, chaos was engulfing the social media company after the former president was banned from Facebook and Instagram. 

According to messages between a sales executive and Roth, Dorsey had sent around an email saying that Twitter ‘will permanently suspend [Trump] if our policies are violated after a 12 hour account lock.’ 

When the executive asks Roth if violations other than election fraud claims count for Trump, specifically tweets ‘inciting violence,’ the former saftey chief safety that the ban would be placed for ‘any policy violation.’ 

Then when the sales person asks if Twitter would sidestep its long-standing rule to provide ‘public-interest exceptions’ for world leaders in order to ban Trump. 

‘In this specific case, we’re changing our public interest approach for his account to say any violation would result in suspension,’ Roth replied. 

A Twitter engineer also messaged Roth about the debate to ban Trump, suggesting it wasn’t right for the company to give the former president special treatment just because of his position. 

Roth responded: ‘I think you’re spot on.  ‘To put a different spin on it: policy is one part of the system of how Twitter works. 

‘…We ran into the world changing faster than we were able to either adapt the product or the policy.’

A sales executive goes on to message Roth about mounting pressure Twitter is receiving to ban Trump following the suspensions from Facebook and Instagram. It mentions that Dorsey called for a permanent suspension on Trump if he violates policies

A sales executive goes on to message Roth about mounting pressure Twitter is receiving to ban Trump following the suspensions from Facebook and Instagram. It mentions that Dorsey called for a permanent suspension on Trump if he violates policies

The sales executive questions if Twitter would be foregoing its long-time exception for important public figures, and Roth confirms that they are in this case

The sales executive questions if Twitter would be foregoing its long-time exception for important public figures, and Roth confirms that they are in this case  

Along with justifying its decision to ban Trump, Roth also appeared to push for the permanent suspension of US Rep. Matt Gaetz in order to build an argument for booting the former president.

Gaetz had seen his Twitter account restricted last year violating policies against glorifying violence when he called on Antifa members to be hunted down, and during the uproar to ban Trump, an employee messaged Roth about calls to ban Gaetz. 

Roth said that people were working on that, but that ‘it doesn’t quite fit anywhere.’ 

The Twitter files also revealed that the company inadvertently affected unrelated tweets when trying to suppress posts from the far-right conspiracy theory group, QAnon. 

Twitter at the time was working to suppress tweets making the unfounded claims that the 2020 election was rigged, targeting phrases like ‘Stop the Steal’ and ‘Kraken.’ 

The latter of which referred to Trump-aligned attorney Sidney Powell’s vow to ‘release the Kraken’ when reiterating voter fraud claims, a term popularized by QAnon.  

Roth and an employee acknowledge that an error was made blacklisting ‘kraken,’ as both the mythical sea monster and a cryptocurrency exchange share the name. 

Along with the ban for Trump, Twitter appeared to be ready to ban US US Rep. Matt Gaetz, who had his account restricted for glorifying violence on the platform

Along with the ban for Trump, Twitter appeared to be ready to ban US US Rep. Matt Gaetz, who had his account restricted for glorifying violence on the platform 

The Twitter files also revealed that the company inadvertently affected unrelated tweets when trying to suppress posts from the far-right conspiracy theory group, QAnon

The Twitter files also revealed that the company inadvertently affected unrelated tweets when trying to suppress posts from the far-right conspiracy theory group, QAnon

The newest Twitter files build on the previous batch, where it was revealed that federal authorities nudged Roth to suppress the First Amendment rights of conservative commentators who pushed the idea of fraud during the 2020 presidential election.

The leaks from journalist Matt Taibbi also show the tech giant’s staffers openly discussed banning former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee over a joke.

Taibbi tweeted a screengrab of a message between Twitter executives following a report from the FBI highlighting tweets from former Tippecanoe County, Indiana, official and Republican, John Basham. 

Basham alleged between two and 25 percent of ballots by mail were being rejected due to ‘errors.’

He later tweeted: ‘An unexpected number of registered Republicans are returning ballots,’ while alleging the vote by mail had been a Democratic Party plan to gain an advantage in the election. 

Former Tippecanoe County, Indiana, official and Republican, John Basham's tweets alleging election fraud were flagged by Twitter staff

Former Tippecanoe County, Indiana, official and Republican, John Basham’s tweets alleging election fraud were flagged by Twitter staff

Rather than remove the tweet, Roth opts to place a ‘Learn how voting is safe and secure’ label on the message. 

Roth, who quit his role at Twitter last month following Musk’s takeover, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com on Saturday. 

Basham responded to the leak on Twitter saying: ‘The Twitter files show that the FBI violated my First Amendment right by getting Twitter to take action against my tweets!

‘The federal government has no right to determine what I may print or what I may say.’ 

Musk defended the FBI in a tweet that read: ‘With rare exception, the FBI seems to want to do the right thing.’

He did concede that under Twitter’s former leaders the company ‘operated as s Democratic Party activist machine.’

One exchange shows Roth explaining he will miss 'the FBI and DHS meetings.'

Roth is seen joking about a mysterious meeting on his calendar, saying it is 'DEFINITELY not a meeting with the FBI I SWEAR¿

One exchange (left) shows Roth explaining he will miss ‘the FBI and DHS meetings.’ Roth is also seen joking (right) about a mysterious meeting on his calendar, saying it is ‘DEFINITELY not a meeting with the FBI I SWEAR’

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's joke about his dead grandparents voting in 2020 was also flagged by Twitter staff

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s joke about his dead grandparents voting in 2020 was also flagged by Twitter staff

In another case, when former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee joked: ‘Stood in the rain for hour to early vote today. When I got home I filled my stack of mail-in-ballots and then voted the ballots of my deceased parents and grandparents. They vote just like me! #Trump2020.’

On Slack, one Twitter staffer said: ‘Putting this tweet on everyone’s radar. This appears to be a joke but other people might believe it. Can I get your weigh in this?’

Roth says in the conversation: ‘It’s a joke’ but also says that Huckabee is ‘literally admitting in a tweet to a crime.’ 

He went on: ‘Yeah. I could see us taking action under ‘misleading claims that cause confusion about the established laws, regulations, procedures, and methods of a civic process’ but it’s not one that we could really label in a useful way, so it’s removal (of a stupid and ill-advised joke) or nothing.’

Roth added: ‘I’m maybe inclined not to remove without a report from voting authorities given it’s been a while since he tweeted it and virtually all of the replies I’m seeing are critical/counterspeech.’

The documents released Friday primarily related to the months prior to the January 8, 2021 decision to ban Donald Trump from Twitter. Trump is seen on January 6 prior to the Capitol riot

The documents released Friday primarily related to the months prior to the January 8, 2021 decision to ban Donald Trump from Twitter. Trump is seen on January 6 prior to the Capitol riot 

Staffers at Twitter argued that 'historical context' and 'current climate' should factor into the decision to suspend Trump's account ahead of his January 8, 2021 ban

Staffers at Twitter argued that ‘historical context’ and ‘current climate’ should factor into the decision to suspend Trump’s account ahead of his January 8, 2021 ban

The previous Twitter thread also covered the months and weeks leading up to then-President Donald Trump’s ban from Twitter following the Capitol riot, shedding light on the increasingly frenzied internal efforts within the social media site to moderate his baseless claims of election fraud. 

Some of the most intriguing documents relate to the apparent cozy relationship between top Twitter executives and the FBI, though Taibbi did not reveal any direct evidence of the agency’s intervention in the decision to ban Trump.

In an undated chat on the messaging app Slack that Taibbi says took place after the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot, Roth is seen joking about a mysterious meeting on his calendar, saying it is ‘DEFINITELY not a meeting with the FBI I SWEAR’.

A separate message mentions ‘a report from the FBI concerning 2 tweets,’ which appeared to relate to claims about ballot fraud in the November 2020 election.

The message notes that one of the tweets, claiming mail-in ballots were being ‘shredded’, was adjudicated false, but that the second one claiming up to 25 percent of mail-in ballots were being ‘rejected for errors’ was found to be within Twitter policy.



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