Reactions and commentary on Twitter’s dramatic decision to permanently suspend United States President Donald Trump’s account have fomented a wide spectrum debate, eliciting passionate comments in support of and against the ban.
Outgoing US President Donald Trump’s Twitter account was permanently suspended by the tech giant on Friday, 8 January, citing “risk of further incitement of violence”.
Twitter wrote in a blog post, “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them, we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
These reactions from politicians, media commentators, activists and tech industry professionals have ranged from freedom of speech issues, overreach by social media platforms to stemming the spread of hate and incitements to violence.
The Quint explored and studied responses to this politically-charged and socially significant move by Twitter in banning perhaps the most polarising and followed Twitter user – Donald J Trump.
‘Amazing’ Move by Twitter at the Cost of Its Own Traffic
Independent internet privacy researcher and author, Henk Van Ess, tweeted, “I think @twitter did something amazing for a tech company.”
According to Van Ess, the move comes at the cost of user traffic that Trump would get Twitter. At the time of suspension, the outgoing US President had 88 million followers and was a prolific tweeter, tweeting a dozen tweets a day on occasions.
Closer home, Member of Parliament (MP) from Bengaluru South, Tejasvi Surya characterised the ban as “a threat to democracy”.
"This must be a wake up call for all who don’t yet understand the threat to our democracies by unregulated big tech companies. If they can do this to POTUS, they can do this to anyone," the BJP MP tweeted.
Twitter’s Intolerance and Censorship
Meanwhile, BJP IT Cell Head, Amit Malviya, also said that he was against the social media platforms' move to ban Trump over his inciteful posts.
"Deplatforming Donald Trump, a sitting US president, sets a dangerous precedent. It has less to do with his views and more to do with intolerance for a differing point. Ironically, those who claim to champion free speech are celebrating. Big tech firms are now the new oligarchs," he tweeted.
Ban Not About Censorship But About Saving Lives
Kevin McHale, who has 1.3 million followers on Twitter, weighed in on the ban, saying, “This isn't about censorship or free speech. It's about protecting lives. Trump's words have now directly lead to 5 deaths & an attack on the US Capitol. Twitter/tech companies should always ban anyone who incites & encourages violence - especially when they have a big platform.”
Suspension Comes ‘Too Late’
“Twitter’s permanent ban on Trump, and Facebook’s “indefinite” ban on him, are years too late,” tweeted senior journalist former editor of The Verge, Walt Mossberg.
Mossberg contends Twitter has allowed Trump to perpetrate lies and disinformation for far too long, which have culminated in armed insurrection on the Capitol in Washington, DC.
“Millions have been fed lies and conspiracy theories and given tacit permission to commit acts of hate and violence because the two services dithered so long. They are complicit,” he tweeted.
Time to Regulate Big Tech
In a passionate rejoinder to Twitter’s move to ban Trump, conservative Republican Senator Lindsey Graham lashed out in a tweet: “I’m more determined than ever to strip Section 230 protections from Big Tech (Twitter) that let them be immune from lawsuits.”
In the United States, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a legal shield that protects intermediaries like social media platforms from legal liability for the content created or posted by users.
Notably, Trump himself has been very vocal about repealing Section 230 and stripping social media platforms of its legal immunity. Conservative politicians in both the US and India have consistently complained of big techs’ biases against them and have called for tighter regulations.
“Big Tech are the only companies in America that virtually have absolute immunity from being sued for their actions, and it’s only because Congress gave them that protection,” Graham added in another tweet.
“Twitter may ban me for this but I willingly accept that fate: Your decision to permanently ban President Trump is a serious mistake. The Ayatollah can tweet, but Trump can’t. Says a lot about the people who run Twitter.
Even Tejasvi Surya, who is also a member of Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT, made an appeal for regulating tech platforms in the wake of the suspension. “Sooner India reviews intermediaries regulations, better for our democracy,” Surya tweeted.
Ban Will Inflame Trump Supporters
Some went on to provide tacit support for calls to regulate Twitter, stating that the move will only strengthen the notion about the anti-right bias of big tech platforms.
“The Twitter ban is, to put it mildly, inflaming Trump supporters,” tweeted conservative news channel Fox News host Howard Kurtz.
He added, “Even if temporary action was justified, this permanent move, along with Facebook's, fuels longtime accusations of bias against the right.”