Twitter Files reveal ‘junior employee’ stood against Trump ban, warned of ‘slippery slope’
Twitter CEO Elon Musk and independent journalist Michael Shellenberger released the fourth installment of the “Twitter Files” showing how executives at the company acted against their own policy to ban former President Donald Trump.
After showing several screenshots of messages between former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and senior executives, including Former Twitter Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth, Shellenberger noted there was a notable exception to employees wanting Trump banned.
“The *only* serious concern we found expressed within Twitter over the implications for free speech and democracy of banning Trump came from a junior person in the organization. It was tucked away in a lower-level Slack channel known as ‘site-integrity-auto,’” Shellenberger said.
“This might be an unpopular opinion but one-off ad hoc decisions like this that don’t appear rooted in policy are imho [in my honest opinion] a slippery slope and reflect an alternatively equally dictatorial problem,” the internal message read. “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.”
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The same employee wrote earlier that their “concern is specifically surrounding the unarticulated logic of the decision by [Facebook].”
Tech executives banning Trump without him explicitly violating their policies could give people the “idea (conspiracy theory?) that all… internet moguls… sit around like kings casually deciding what people can and cannot see.”
The employee pointed to a Medium blog post from Will Oremus titled, “Facebook Chucked Its Own Rulebook to Ban Trump.”
“The underlying problem,” wrote Oremus, “is that the dominant platforms have always been loath to own up to their subjectivity, because it highlights the extraordinary, unfettered power they wield over the global public square and places the responsibility for that power on their own shoulders.”
“So they hide behind an ever-changing rulebook, alternately pointing to it when it’s convenient and shoving it under the nearest rug when it isn’t,” he added.
Several people who responded to Shellenberger commended the “junior employee” for taking a stand and said they deserved a promotion.
Another “senior executive in advertising sales” similarly expressed confusion to Roth over Twitter’s policy to ban Trump.
“In the past, we ‘exempted policy violation’ from a world leader due to the public interest value… are we dropping the public interest now …?” the executive asked Roth.
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“In this specific case, we’re changing our public interest approach for his account to say any violation would result in suspension,” Roth responded, referencing Trump’s account.
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“We aren’t completely getting rid of the public interest approach – though we do have work planned on revisions in H1 2021,” Roth added, again showing Twitter was treating Trump differently.
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The latest batch highlights chaos within Twitter between Jan. 6-8th, including the drama surrounding the Capitol Hill riot on Jan. 6.
“As the pressure builds, Twitter executives build the case for a permanent ban,” Shellenberger summarized the thread.
“On Jan 7, senior Twitter execs: – create justifications to ban Trump – seek a change of policy for Trump alone, distinct from other political leaders – express no concern for the free speech or democracy implications of a ban This #TwitterFiles is reported with @lwoodhouse,” the first post read.
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The installment of messages, called “The Removal of Donald Trump: January 7,” is the fourth to be publicly released after previous installments revealed what led to Trump’s removal from Twitter, “secret blacklists” used by the company and how Twitter intentionally buried the Hunter Biden laptop story ahead of the 2020 presidential election.