Suspend Donald Trump now
You can still make a difference for democracy, human health, and our planet. We are urging you, again, to do what you should have done four years ago when we first asked: Suspend Trump’s personal account based on his constant violations of Twitter’s Terms of Service and Policies. We specifically noted then and again now that his harmful tweets encourage and amplify hate and harassment from his followers in addition to spreading harmful propaganda and lies.
A lot more harm has happened since then, all of it predicted in our letter, some of it even worse than expected, and much of it enabled by Twitter. We have tweeted and referred to that letter time and time again when Trump tweets and someone asks “Is that even allowed on this platform?” It is allowed. For him.
Exactly a year after we published our letter, Twitter wrote in a blog post titled World Leaders on Twitter:
“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate. It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”
You showed your explicit support of the company’s giving Trump a special exception to Twitter’s rules by sharing a tweet and positive media coverage.
We ask you, what is the “important information” Trump is sharing in his tweets? Because you know what he did with the special exception you gave him? He tweeted a huge pile of lies intended to spread misinformation and disinformation. Experts, fact-checkers, journalists, everyday users, even our mothers, know it, too. He averages 50 lies a day, according to the Washington Post, which set up a database to track them.
How do these lies constitute “important information” in your eyes? How do you reconcile your aspiration for Twitter to be a public square with its role in spreading lies about the risks of Covid-19 and discouraging voting by mail? Because that is what its loudest voice has been tweeting for the past four years.
Did you intend for Twitter to promote and encourage harassment and violence by his supporters, white supremacists, and police officers? His tweets are doing it in violation of your ToS, and it’s gotten significantly worse since he knows he has free reign under the special exception you gave him. He uses that exception to consistently harass, and to encourage others to harass, individuals, including his political opponents and other elected officials as we noted in our first letter.
Recently, his tweets about Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan have had a measurably harmful impact on speech. The Brookings Institute analyzed three tweets. Just three tweets. They concluded the following:
“Trump’s tweets attacking politicians, while not especially noxious by online standards, can lead to a sudden increase in toxic and threatening speech.”
Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, toxic speech leads to toxic actions, and Governor Whitmer has been the target of a kidnapping plot and vicious attacks, which she blamed on Trump and his tweets.
What happens offline is even worse in many areas. This year, Trump has constantly referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus” and in the months following the outbreak, Asian Americans faced more than 2,100 hate incidents between March and June, according to nonprofit advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate. On June 9, an attacker threw a glass bottle at a woman strapping her child into a car seat in San Francisco, home of Twitter’s headquarters, while yelling out a racial slur. Later that week, in Santa Clara, California, another assailant kicked a woman’s dog, yelling, “Take your disease that’s ruining our country and go home.”
He uses Twitter to encourage violence against racial justice demonstrators as well. Just this Friday, a judge found his tweets were the cause of “substantial risk of future harm” in inciting federal officers to take illegal actions in response to racial justice demonstrations. The litigation described firing tear gas and impact munitions at crowds and journalists, hitting protestors with batons, and removing someone in an unmarked van without charging them.
This weekend also saw Trump use Twitter to amplify and encourage physical violence against the Biden campaign. He shared a video of his supporters surrounding the Biden campaign bus and ramming one of its supporters’ cars on the freeway. At least one campaign event was cancelled as a result of the incident. So much for the right to peaceable assembly.
Right now, two days before the 2020 elections, his attacks have targeted our own democracy. When not directly harassing politicians, he has focused on spreading blatant disinformation about mail-in ballots — pulling away the thin threads this democracy hangs on. He has been actively tweeting voter disinformation that seems designed to help him unfairly win the election and threaten acceptance of the results if he loses.
Trump knows Twitter is the way to manipulate, lie and attack others and our democracy. In a recent 60 Minutes interview, he said stated that he wouldn’t be where he was at if it weren’t for social media. In plain words, Twitter has become his propaganda machine.
As President of the United States, Trump still has access to the official @POTUS account. He should not be able to use his @RealDonaldJTrump account, because it is in constant violation of the Terms of Service.
As our Project Include founding team colleague Erica Joy Baker tweeted, Will you take action if he violates the TOS when he is no longer a “world leader”?
Will you take action if he contests a democratic election and falsely tweets victory? If he uses Twitter to mobilize violence? When will it be enough?
If he wins another term through vote suppression and misinformation, or if he challenges the election and uses the courts for vote suppression, it will be on your hands. You are paying enough attention to understand the impact of Twitter as a social media platform. You know the power of his tweets. You know you have the power to prevent his tweets from cheating voters and toppling our democracy. Do the right thing and suspend him before you enable even more harm.
Laura Gómez and Ellen Pao