An Open Letter To Jack Dorsey

Dear Jack,

On Jan. 20, Donald Trump will climb the stairs to Marine One and depart the White House. What happens next is up to you.

For the past four years, you’ve instructed the team at Twitter to take very cautious steps with Trump. No doubt his decision to use your platform as his primary communications tool has provided Twitter with tremendous value.

The @POTUS account and the @RealDonaldTrump account have overlapped, with President Trump using his 88,651,226 Twitter followers to ruthlessly attack his enemies, promote Twitter accounts that published provably false information about COVID-19, and amplify claims of election fraud and stolen votes.

In the months leading up to the election, you’ve added more labels and qualifying information to his relentless firehose of misinformation. But Trump’s use of your platform has done a tremendous amount of harm. He’s used your platform to fire employees, endorse white nationalists, and draw dangerous lines of hate and division. He’s amplified hate and encouraged armed militias to “stand ready.”

In the days after the election, Trump repeatedly tweeted about vote counting and claimed that voter fraud was widespread. Twitter reacted by labeling a staggering 15 of his 44 tweets as disputed or misleading. The Trump campaign responded, saying Twitter was working to “silence the president.” Undeterred, Trump tweeted “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!”

Individually, these tweets could be seen as emotional outbursts. But looked at collectively, it’s clear that his emotional and hate-filled rage tweets are more than acts showing lack of impulse control. They were part of a coherent strategy to replace a democratic government with the control of strong-man social media command and control.

On Jan. 20, you have an opportunity to put an end to the former president's use of your powerful media megaphone.

I’m not asking you to throw him off the platform or restrict what he says, or what he chooses to retweet. Instead, I’m asking that you treat him as you would any other citizen on your platform. Hold him to your published terms of service. Don’t allow him to incite violence, or use Twitter to shame, humiliate, or otherwise bully others.

Treat him as Citizen Trump, and quickly he’ll find himself running into the restrictions other users of your platform face. His special privileges and power as the President of the United State gave him unique -- some would inappropriate -- ability to leverage your platform for his personal gain.

While I suspect that you and the leadership of Twitter spent many hours trying to figure out how to draw lines around which tweets should be labeled, restricted, or otherwise clarified as Trump poured out his rage on your platform, I’m also quite sure he gave it little thought.

Playing Presidential whack-a-mole with the hundreds of tweets he published or retweeted each day has left your platform powerful, but damaged.

The lack of a clear ethical center in the name of "free speech" has given rise to a slew of new competitors -- narrower in focus, but clearly with a mission to take sides and provide a virtual gathering place for rage. Let them have it. If Trump and his small but vocal audience want to decamp from Twitter and move their cabal to Gab, Parler, MeWe, or Rumble, you’d be crazy trying to placate them to keep them on Twitter.

We'll never know how much Twitter's amplification helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election. We'll never know how much Trump's bully Twitter pulpit gave him the digital weapons to threaten his opponents.  But we do know one thing for certain: On Jan. 20, he'll no longer be able to hide behind the "elected or government official" exceptions in your terms of service.

Jack, it’s time to tell Donald, "we expect civil engagement within our terms of service, or you’ll be de-platformed."

4 comments about "An Open Letter To Jack Dorsey".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Kenneth Hittel from Ken Hittel, December 14, 2020 at 2:45 p.m.

    "Elected or government official" or not, he remained a citizen and one who, as you correctly point, in the TOTALITY of his tweets --regardless of how individual tweets read, one by one -- has been waging a war on our Democracy. A campaign for treason is what he unleashed, and is still encouraging: He should have been removed long ago. There is no reason to wait until January 20.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 14, 2020 at 3:54 p.m.

    Hopefully, he will be arrested and indicted for inciting violence, treason and sedition. Those twits can be used against him and the facilitators can be held as responsible as those who drive the get away car in murder crimes with a minimum of 20 years x 300,000+ deaths.

  3. Charles Pierce from Private, December 14, 2020 at 7:27 p.m.

    I think there is a bigger issue which is...what is the appropriate rules a private company should implement for user-created content? There are severe challenges to having a set of rules that are clear for "allowed speech" vs "disallowed speech".

    At the end of the day, Twitter can do anything it wants as not subject to the first amendment, so ultimately any censorship, warnings, or decisions about user-created content and what the platform does with it is up to the private corporation. They don't even have to be fair or consistent (I am sure there are hundreds of thousands of other equally bad tweets that are unlabeled and violate the standard rules in someone's view).

    It just becomes a commercial decision made by company employees.

    The US Government would likely not be able to pass the same community speech rules on open Internet companies like Twitter, Parler, Facebook, 4Chan (not counting the traditionally illegal stuff that platforms can be held liable for) since there aren't laws against lying, omitting facts, promoting false ideas, promoting factually inaccurate stories, or even communicating conspiracy theories.

    I think singling out high-profile individuals just leads to commercial difficulties when others are not singled out. We had (still have I believe) Congressmen who supported the IRA which was an organization that supported terrorists, as an example, but no one is asking Twitter to censor them.

    It may be that platforms basically will make (and have the perfect right to do so) arbitrary or somewhat "gray area" decisions and let public opinion or public op-eds fall where they may, and will just live with the reputational and commercial consequences, whatever their impact may or may not be.

    If Twitter and Facebook continue to implement end-user generated content restrictions, then everyone should be more upfront in acknowledging that they are no different from FOX or MSNBC or the New York Post or New York Times or CSPAN in what opinion content they allow and with whatever speech restrictions they may impose (for example, CSPAN chooses Tweets and Facebook posts to share, so they are making content decisions on end-user generated content).

    If you hew to legal definitions of common carrier, as far as I know, the mobile telephone companies don't read and screen group text messages, anything goes through (except legally blocked messages mostly based on spam laws, etc.). So, the alternative is Twitter should let anything go and remove messages that are illegal when they are notified about them.



  4. Ben B from Retired, December 14, 2020 at 8:03 p.m.

    Twitter just picks and chooses who breaks the terms and use of the twitter rules which I think there is a set of rules for some who can get away with breaking the rules and some that break the rules and get banned. Trump can find another social media platform if he gets banned by twitter and the media will make a big deal about what he says on a said new platform which will be Parlor. As for COVID, I don't blame the president for all of the COVID deaths in this country I blame a lot of it on China not being upfront about the virus from the start and not being truthful either.

    I don't like Trump I was always lukewarm when he ran and won in 2016 to become president I didn't ever let him ruin my day as some did from the comments I'm seeing on here I will give him credit with warp speed on the vaccines now rolling out that I hope will keep COVID in check and contain it. I always washed my hands before it became such in thing to do way before COVID that is all I'll say.

Next story loading loading..