in January 2021 After former US president Donald Trump tweeted in support of an uprising in the Capitol, his account was frozen and blocked. But leaders around the world tweeted in support of genocide and threatening violence, but none were banned from the platform. Less than six months later, in June 2021, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari posted a tweet threatening violence against Biafran separatist groups in the country’s southwest. Buhari’s tweet was removed but his account remained live.
Almost two years after Donald Trump banned from twitter, Elon Musk has published a series of documents called the Twitter Files, arguing that the site got it wrong. Leaked documents show how the platform made decisions before Musk took over, focusing on the former president and other controversial moderation decisions.
In the latest dossier released via Bari Weiss, founder and editor of media outlet The Free Press, Musk has released several documents revealing Twitter’s policy and how its trust and security teams came to the decision to ban Trump in the wake of the uprising. January 6, 2021.
In a debate brought forward on Twitter, Weiss claims that the decision to ban Trump is unprecedented and deviates from the site’s reactions to other heads of state whose tweets incite or support violence. Weiss cited examples from leaders in Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Iran, where Twitter allegedly showed restraint on its part when deciding whether to keep prominent political figures on the platform even after the breaches. Twitter did not release documents detailing its decision to keep other public figures on the site.
While Weiss has interpreted the reluctance to use such measures against other world leaders as evidence that Trump has been treated particularly unfairly, the documents can reveal the opposite as well: the company has consistently underestimated the danger posed by its platform in contexts outside the United States, and has only acted by force. Against threats to American democracy. If Twitter applied its rules the same way around the world, Trump’s ban would have covered other leaders as well.
“Vulnerable communities in distant lands are less important than relationships with leaders like us. [India’s Narendra] Modi or others,” says an employee at an organization that is part of Twitter’s trust and safety council, which was disbanded earlier this month. The employee asked not to be identified because he was concerned that his organization could be subject to harassment and threats faced by former Twitter employees.
Part of this discrepancy may be due to how different governments respond to the moderation of social platforms. The company was banned after Twitter removed Bukhari’s tweet threatening Biafran separatists. But instead of banning Buhari later, the company negotiated his reinstatement with the government, agreeing to open a local office, pay local taxes, and register as a publisher, among other things. Nigeria is now considering legislation to regulate platforms.
“I think there’s a lot of trade-offs about whether to take enforcement measures, and of course access to markets is one of them,” says Kian Vesteinsson, senior research analyst on technology and democracy at Freedom House. a nonprofit research and advocacy group focused on democracy and political freedoms.