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STEPHEN GLOVER: If Twitter bans Donald Trump, how can it give a voice to terrorists? 

For more than a decade President Donald Trump has been disseminating lies and abuse on Twitter.

He claimed in 2012 that the Chinese ‘created the concept of global warming’. He asserted in 2017 that in the previous year’s presidential election he had won more votes than Hillary Clinton, though he actually received three million fewer.

Trump has consistently fabricated untruths about his predecessor, Barack Obama, stoking the falsehood that the first African-American President was born abroad, and accusing him of having wire-tapped Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign.

For years, as these fantasies spewed out, Twitter was happy to provide a platform for Trump.

Controversial, divisive, rude, inaccurate — he was the perfect ambassador for a social networking service that thrives on sensation and confrontation, and loves nothing more than stirring up a good old spat.

Outrage

And now, in the dying days of his presidency, Twitter has assumed the unaccustomed mantle of virtue and banned Trump for life, ‘due to the risk of further incitement to violence’.

So it is that an organisation which promotes intellectual hooliganism, and is probably more responsible than any other for the cheapening and degradation of public discourse, has ejected the hoodlum-in-chief.

Why? Why has it turned on the man who epitomised its values — or absence of them? Why is the President who succoured and fostered the media site suddenly surplus to requirements?

Partly because after Trump whipped up the mob before it marched on the Capitol last week, Twitter executives thought it no longer prudent to offer him a home. Rather in the way a Mafia boss knows where to draw a line, they decided their erstwhile champion should be sent packing.

In the dying days of his presidency, Twitter has assumed the unaccustomed mantle of virtue and banned Trump for life, ‘due to the risk of further incitement to violence’

And partly because with an incoming Democratic administration that will have a majority in the House and probably the Senate, Twitter hopes it can stave off disobliging legislation by demonising a President detested by the Democrats. Best be on the right side of power.

This question nonetheless remains: However ghastly and disruptive Trump undoubtedly is, is it morally right for the social media site to single him out for defenestration (along with hundreds of his supporters)?

After all, as Trump’s son Donald Junior pointed out yesterday, Twitter still offers a perch to Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is no sweetie. If given the choice of crossing the Sahara with either Rouhani or Trump, in the possession of a single water bottle, I might choose Trump.

Twitter may have improved its record since the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee declared in 2016 that social media networks had become the ‘vehicle of choice in spreading propaganda and the recruiting platforms for terrorism’.

But although it has expelled hundreds of thousands of accounts over the years because of their terrorism content, it is a reasonable assumption that no sooner does it get rid of one terrorist than another pops up under a different guise.

This question nonetheless remains: However ghastly and disruptive Trump undoubtedly is, is it morally right for the social media site to single him out for defenestration (along with hundreds of his supporters)?

This question nonetheless remains: However ghastly and disruptive Trump undoubtedly is, is it morally right for the social media site to single him out for defenestration (along with hundreds of his supporters)?

The fact is that it has provided, and still provides, an arena for many bad people. It allowed the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai massacre, to operate an account. During the Westgate terrorist outrage in Kenya in 2013, al-Shabaab used Twitter to claim responsibility, and tweeted live throughout the attack.

Twitter has kept Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, on its books. He has made various highly provocative remarks interpreted as anti-white, and in particular as anti-Semitic.

Farrakhan once described Adolf Hitler as a ‘very great man’ and a ‘great German’. Perhaps not very surprisingly, he has praised Donald Trump on several occasions, once saying he ‘liked what I’m looking at’.

Twitter still offers a perch to Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is no sweetie. If given the choice of crossing the Sahara with either Rouhani or Trump, in the possession of a single water bottle, I might choose Trump

Twitter still offers a perch to Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He is no sweetie. If given the choice of crossing the Sahara with either Rouhani or Trump, in the possession of a single water bottle, I might choose Trump

Isn’t this all very odd? Whereas Hassan Rouhani, Louis Farrakhan, and legions of rogues are considered acceptable to Twitter, the elected President of the United States is suddenly persona non grata.

True, last Wednesday he recklessly called the people who stormed the Capitol ‘patriots’, and was locked out of his account for 12 hours by Twitter. But the supposedly toxic two tweets which led to his expulsion don’t seem very incendiary.

In the first he raved about how ‘the 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me . . . will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future’. In the second he merely said that he would not be ‘going to the inauguration on January 20’.

Excessive

According to Twitter, the first tweet was construed ‘as further indication that President Trump does not plan to facilitate an orderly transition’ while the second provided ‘further confirmation of [Trump’s view] that the election was not legitimate’.

Pushing it a bit? I’d say so. The interpretation of the second tweet is especially tendentious. If Trump doesn’t want to turn up for Joe Biden’s inauguration, that is proof he has bad manners and is a poor loser.

Not necessarily that the election was in his view ‘illegitimate’, though he has said as much on other occasions.

Twitter has kept Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, on its books. He has made various highly provocative remarks interpreted as anti-white, and in particular as anti-Semitic

Twitter has kept Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, on its books. He has made various highly provocative remarks interpreted as anti-white, and in particular as anti-Semitic

The truth is that Twitter was looking for an excuse to get rid of him and, when it came to it, the offence did not justify his treatment. A life ban is excessive. It could have suspended him again, as Facebook has done, but that did not suit the social media site’s purpose.

What all this shows, as Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested in a television interview on Sunday, is that Twitter is not a social media platform, as it likes to pretend, but a publisher which increasingly makes its own political judgments about what to include and exclude.

No one would suggest that an online newspaper is under any obligation to provide space for the American President or anyone else. It is also perfectly within its rights to moderate the comments of readers so that they conform to its standards of decency and fairness.

Obnoxious

Twitter is different inasmuch as it has generally much looser standards, and claims not to be a publisher selecting pieces, but a platform on which 300 million people can roost and write more or less what they want.

Except for Donald Trump, and others of his political stamp with whom Twitter disagrees. And if Trump is censored — in fact, banned — who comes next? However obnoxious he may be, he is still an elected President, and speaks for many millions.

If he broke the law in fomenting a riot — as has been widely alleged — that is a matter for the law, and upholders of the American constitution. It is not for Twitter to determine what can be written.

The truth is that Twitter was looking for an excuse to get rid of him and, when it came to it, the offence did not justify his treatment. A life ban is excessive. It could have suspended him again, as Facebook has done, but that did not suit the social media site¿s purpose. Pictured: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

The truth is that Twitter was looking for an excuse to get rid of him and, when it came to it, the offence did not justify his treatment. A life ban is excessive. It could have suspended him again, as Facebook has done, but that did not suit the social media site’s purpose. Pictured: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

The suspicion inevitably grows that it and the other social media companies are in fact publishers with a hidden Left-leaning agenda which they disavow. They deplore fascist tendencies in Trump, who was once commercially useful to them, while in suppressing free speech show how illiberal they really are.

How much better it would be for society if social media didn’t exist! They have made politics nastier and more confrontational. They facilitate the spreading of lies and misinformation which are lapped up by gullible people.

But, alas, Twitter and the rest are here to stay. And if they insist on behaving like publishers they’ll have to take responsibility for the myriad falsehoods they churn out. Then they can decide whether or not to publish Donald Trump.


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