One of the many unique attributes of Donald Trump’s presidency is his prolific use of Twitter. President Obama used Twitter, but not in the same ways President Trump is using the platform.
President Trump’s Tweets on Trial
In the last week or so, there has been even more attention directed at President Trump’s use of Twitter than normal, primarily because of what he is tweeting about North Korea and the effects his tweets could have on geopolitical relationships.
Here are a couple about North Korea from the last month or so:
Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2017
Many Twitter users have noted that these tweets technically violate Twitter’s Terms of Service. How? Twitter’s Terms of Service forbid using the platform to make violent threats, directly or indirectly. Any account that does this may be shut down.
President Trump’s tweets have been interpreted as threats by many including North Korea. Really, anyone with common sense would interpret these tweets as threats, however realistic or unrealistic these threats may be.
So, how did Twitter respond?
This is how Twitter responded on Monday (see full thread):
THREAD: Some of you have been asking why we haven't taken down the Tweet mentioned here: https://t.co/CecwG0qHmq 1/6
— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) September 25, 2017
So, basically, Twitter is not going to ban President Trump from Twitter, despite him breaking the rules, because his tweets are “newsworthy.”
To take this to its logical, unrealistic end, President Trump could theoretically launch a nuclear World War III on Twitter and not be banned from the platform.
A humorous baseball account I followed tweeted this, as Twitter routinely struggles in its quarterly earnings reports:
.@Twitter Does having a war begin on your platform boost your Q3 earnings or is it bad
— Charles Radbourn, KCB (@OldHossRadbourn) September 25, 2017
President Trump being an exception to Twitter rules has upset Twitter users and people in general. So then here’s the question:
Should Twitter Ban President Trump?
No. Twitter shouldn’t ban President Trump from Twitter. They should change their Terms of Service to reflect the unwritten reasons they have allowed him to stay on the platform, which is exactly what they said they’re doing.
Further, and this is going to be an unpopular opinion, I don’t think even normal users should be banned from Twitter for making threats toward other people. I have written about this topic on this blog before.
Obviously, I don’t think making threats on Twitter is good, I just think banning everyone who makes threats on Twitter is an impossible expectation. I think people who make threats should be able to use Twitter because policing every threat on a platform like Twitter is unrealistic and potentially does more harm than good, especially when AI and algorithms get involved (just ask Facebook about that).
The reality is that hundreds of thousands of Twitter accounts are making threats to other Twitter accounts on the platform every single day. In one instance, it may be a friend jokingly threatening to punch another friend in the face if he doesn’t pay him back for the lunch he bought for him. In another instance it may be a head of state threatening nuclear war with another head of state.
Neither user should be banned, I believe, for a number of reasons. The first of which is that the user could just create a new Twitter account with new information and continue making threats as he or she so pleases, so the banning wasn’t really effective anyway.
Another reason is that, if President Trump was banned from Twitter, Twitter would be compelled by its users to go through and ban every single user who has ever made threats to others on the platform, which would be an impossible task.
President Trump and celebrities like him should not be protected from being banned for violating Twitter’s Terms of Service, and nor should President Trump or celebrities like him be more likely to be banned than the average Twitter user for violating the Terms.
Either you ban every single person, famous or not, who breaks the Terms, or you don’t ban any of them. I think the second option is more realistic and manageable than the first.
Further, from a business perspective, Twitter would be silly to ban President Trump from their platform because he has brought more attention to the platform than anything else in its history.
Twitter has their reasons for not banning President Trump. Whatever they actually are, I think they are doing the right thing by letting him stay. If they decided to ban him, they’ve be opening up a Pandora’s box of subsequent actions they would be compelled, and I believe unable, to take.
I’m curious what you think. This is just my opinion. I could be convinced otherwise.