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Twitter backtracks over free spech in face of populist calls for censorship

Twitter chief Jack Dorsey backed the messaging platform’s ban of US President Donald Trump, but said Wednesday it sets a “dangerous” precedent and represents a failure to promote healthy conversation on the social network.

“Having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications,” Dorsey said in a string of tweets inviting feedback from users.

“While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.”

Trump’s access to social media platforms he has used as a megaphone during his presidency has been largely cut off since a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington last week.

Operators say the embittered leader could use his accounts to foment more unrest in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Late last week Twitter shut down Trump’s account, booting him from the global platform he has fervently used throughout his term in office to make proclamations, accusations and spread misinformation.

Twitter’s decision to permanently suspend Trump is considered overdue by critics who argue he has gotten away with abuses, but has inflamed members of the far right who say it stifles free speech.

Twitter said in a blog post explaining its decision that after close review of the president’s recent tweets it had “permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

Twitter also blocked efforts by Trump to sidestep the ban when he posted tweets from the official presidential account @POTUS and the @TeamTrump campaign account.

“We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now,” ACLU senior legislative counsel Kate Ruane said at the time.

“But, it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions.”

Dorsey said Wednesday that while he believes Twitter made the right decision to ban Trump, it “sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.”

“Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation,” Dorsey said.

“This moment in time might call for this dynamic, but over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open Internet.”

Twitter is far from the only major platform to oust Trump, with bans also in effect by Facebook plus Snapchat, and YouTube temporarily suspending his channel.

Dorsey rejected the notion that social media giants coordinated these efforts, reasoning that it was more likely they each came to the same conclusion about the potential for violence.

In related news a poll conducted by Arab News on Twitter found that most respondents wanted Iran’s supreme leader to be banned from the social media platform. Of the 1,091 votes, 66.9 percent of Twitter poll said they supported a ban.

The poll comes just days after the social networking site suspended Donald Trump’s account indefinitely amid fears he would incite further violence in the US capital in the lead up to Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Twitter previously removed individual tweets that Trump wrote claiming electoral fraud without any evidence.

Meanwhile Twitter has also removed a tweet by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that questioned the COVID-19 vaccines from the US and the UK.

His tweet followed a ban on importing the vaccines from the two countries into Iran, with Khamenei saying they were “completely untrustworthy.”

“The import of American and British vaccines is prohibited… It is not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations,” the Iranian leader said in a speech, which was also posted on Twitter.

He also said: “Given our experience with France’s HIV-tainted blood supplied, French vaccines aren’t trustworthy either.”

The tweet has since been taken down on Khamenei’s English and Arabic accounts, but is still available on his Persian account.

Twitter said the tweet violated the social media platform’s rules.

Twitter has recently been clamping down on accounts.

Earlier, the social media giant permanently cut off US President Donald Trump’s personal account and access to his nearly 90 million followers late on Friday, citing the risk of further incitement of violence, three days after Trump called on thousands of supporters to march on the Capitol as Congress met to certify his defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.

Twitter has long resisted pressure to suspend Trump’s account. But after a “close review” of the president’s recent tweets, the company said on Friday evening it “had permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

Trump later used the official @POTUS government to lash out at Twitter, addressing the 75 million “great patriots” who voted for him: “We will not be SILENCED!” Trump said he was considering building his own social media platform.

Twitter quickly deleted those posts and soon after suspended the Trump campaign account.

Source: Arab News

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