A series of internal Twitter documents shared on the social media platform on Monday offer a glimpse into the internal debate between some of the company’s employees over his plans to impose sanctions on then-President Donald Trump after the January 6, 2021, attack on the US. It was before the verdict.
The documents—shared by journalist Bari Weiss—as the latest installment of the so-called Twitter files—show that there was at least some bickering among various employees about whether Trump’s final tweets violated the social network’s policies on violence. There was a debate. Let’s stop provoking. But they stop short of showing that Twitter ignored its own rules in enforcing the ban.
Twitter’s new boss, Elon Musk, on Monday hailed and publicized the release of internal company documents and attempted to portray former Twitter leadership’s decision as politically motivated. In a tweet, he suggested that the former president did not violate rules and that the decision was made at the behest of activist staff.
Elon Musk made the comments after making a controversial decision last month to reverse Trump’s ban on the platform following a poll of his Twitter followers, initially saying he would consult a panel of experts on the decision. Musk on Monday disbanded his Trust and Safety Council, a group of outside experts that works with the company on sensitive issues.
Trump’s account was permanently suspended by Twitter two days after some of Trump’s supporters launched an attack on the Capitol, many filled with false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. At the time, Twitter said the ban was due to the risk of further inciting violence. Twitter had long resisted calls to suspend or delete Trump’s account following the decision.
Instead it implemented information labels to provide context around its tweets on the grounds that it was important for users to be able to hear directly from a world leader. Weiss’ tweet shows that in the wake of January 6, Twitter employees were both for and against the idea of banning Trump. A screenshot of an internal Twitter Slack conversation where the names of employees have been edited out.
One employee raises concerns about censorship, while another notes that we effectively enforce strict rules on everyone else on the platform. It is not clear from Weiss’ tweets that the discussion involved the employee in any way in the decision-making process that led to Trump’s ban.
The tweet thread also indicates that some members of Twitter’s security team raised questions about whether Trump’s tweets, which ultimately led to his ban, actually violated company policies.
“I don’t see explicit or even coded incitement to violence,” Twitter security staffer Anika Navarroli said in a brief message about Trump’s January 8 tweet. Will remain a great voice long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!
Another employee whose name was removed in the screenshot said in Slack that a tweet by Trump later that day saying he would not attend President Joe Biden’s inauguration was “clearly not infringing.” But a different staffer questioned whether that tweet could be evidence that Trump does not support a peaceful transition, as Weiss’s tweet suggests.
Twitter’s then-head of legal policy and trusts, Vijaya Gadde — who along with Twitter founder and then-CEO Jack Dorsey was ultimately responsible for content decisions — later asked on January 8 whether Trump’s American Patriot tweets could be used.
as a coded provocation for further violence followed by a request for any context or insight and any relevant previous research. Twitter’s scaled enforcement team also joined the assessment, and questioned whether Trump’s tweet could be considered a glorification of violence, the screenshots show, which would violate company policies.