Welcome to Friday, where we’ve entered what feels like round 57 of “Is THIS finally what gets Twitter to ban Trump?”
The answer is almost certainly no, to the point that I wish Vegas would put odds on this, because there are few things in this world more certain than that Twitter will not ban the president of the United States.
President Donald Trump has recently been alluding to the possibility of nuclear war with North Korea with all the subtlety of someone alluding to the possibility of nuclear war with North Korea, the most recent example being this tweet he sent on Friday:
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
Several folks believe this tweet is a violation of Twitter’s terms of service.
Kal Penn (@kalpenn) August 11, 2017
Threatening nuclear war on Twitter feels like a terms of service violation
Pablo S. Torre (@PabloTorre) August 11, 2017
It’s not hard to argue that Trump’s tweet is an indirect violent threat, though it’s also not hard to argue that it’s a simple statement about the defensive readiness of the United States military. Of course, Trump has also retweeted tweets that quote threats the president made with his real live mouth, such as that North Korea can expect “fire and fury” if the nation threatens the U.S.
That seems less ambiguous, and, as Jay Willis wrote on this subject for GQ back in April, this is not a case of Trump harassing one individual (hello, Kim Jong-un).
Now we’re talking about atomic bombs. North Korea is run by grade-A blusterers who say crazy shit all the time, so it’s possible that they don’t want to hit that giant red LAUNCH button any more than the rest of the civilized world. But if the president’s use of his Twitter account is really making that result more likely, and if putting him on ice for a while could “affect the larger world” by making that result less likely, they should really think about doing it!
Who knows what conversations are going on inside Twitter. When I asked a spokesperson whether the company had thoughts about Trump’s latest war games tweet, or just some general thoughts on whether politicians can use Twitter to threaten violence against other nations, I got the same response they dish out to journalists every time something like this happens: “We do not comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons.”
Not commenting on a tweet threatening nuclear war due to “security reasons” seems a bit off!
But, anyway, there are legitimate arguments that people shouldn’t want Twitter to ban Trump.
Here’s Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times, back in December, on what a Trump ban might lead to:
The repercussions could be vast. As online services like Twitter become the worlds primary place for political dialogue, the rules they set up for policing political speech will have a wide-ranging impact they could be used to ban not just billionaire presidents-elect, but also activists and dissidents across the globe.
In that same article, Jillian York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Manjoo that It would be very much a violation of the spirit of freedom of expression to not allow me to critique a union leader or a journalist or a president. If Twitter banned Trump, the public would have much less access to the thoughts of a president who already avoids the questions of journalists, and they certainly wouldn’t be able to voice their responses, however feeble those responses may at times feel.
Those responses will feel very feeble in the middle of a nuclear war, which maybe could have been prevented if Twitter banned Trump! you say.
Hard to say that’s also not true! Something tells me that, for Twitter, there’s no way to come out of this looking good.