WeeklyTech #76

Understanding Twitter suspensions and the need for consistent policies

with Josh Wester

On Friday evening, Twitter officially suspended the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, from its platform for violating its stated community policies related to inciting violence and spreading false information. This suspension comes after the heinous attack on the United States Capitol on Wednesday, inspired by the president and his key supporters, following a rally on the National Mall. The protest, which culminated in both violence and rioting, was organized in response to the congressional certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election also taking place on Wednesday. 

According to the Associated Press, “Twitter has long given Trump and other world leaders broad exemptions from its rules against personal attacks, hate speech and other behaviors.” But since the election in November 2020, many of the president’s tweets were labeled for promoting conspiracy theories alleging election fraud and the stealing of votes as well as encouraging violence. Twitter utilized these warning and fact check labels to inform the public of the potential misinformation, while the content remained available online due to the compelling public interest of having direct access to communication from the president of the United States. 

But as the Capitol Police and National Guard were clearing the building after the insurrection was quelled, Twitter disabled the president’s account temporarily and deleted certain tweets deemed as encouraging further violence. The temporary suspension also came with a warning that continued violation of Twitter’s policies may lead to a permanent ban from the platform. The account was reenabled on Thursday, Jan. 7. But due to continued policy violations by the president, his account @RealDonaldTrump was permanently suspended on Friday night. 

The Rundown

Resist the Pharisee Temptation on Social Media– The Gospel Coalition

To resist the Pharisee temptation is to be countercultural. It’s to resist building a reputation or platform on the backs of other Christians. We can do this in small ways, by the controversies we decline to engage and by the words we use when we do engage.

Big Tech’s free speech showdown – Axios

Amazon’s decision to boot conservative chat site Parler from its hosting platform, on the heels of Twitter and many other services banishing President Trump, brings three decades of hot argument over online speech to a boil.

Jeff Kosseff on Section 230 and online content moderation – AEI

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has become a focal point of controversy among those who are concerned that social media companies are too biased in their content moderation practices. 

How Google workers secretly built a union – Protocol

Frustrated with conflicts over fair treatment of workers, sexual harassment and equal pay, and facing punishment for organizing a massive walkout, some workers started to talk quietly about more official organizing. In January 2020, a group reached out to the Communications Workers of America to learn the first steps, and began quietly discussing structure and bringing more workers on board without tipping off Google leadership.

Facebook will resume political ad ban in Georgia after polls close – Axios

Following the Georgia runoff elections, the Facebook ban that restricts ads on social issues, elections and politics nationwide will be reimplemented in the state, the company said last Tuesday. The company has been trying to adapt its political ad policies in real time to curb confusion and possible misinformation around the election results.