Two national, nonpartisan civil rights groups are calling on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to suspend President Donald Trump’s account as state election officials finish tallying votes. Their reasoning... well, that should be evident to anyone who’s been doomscrolling these past few days while waiting for this seemingly neverending presidential election to wrap up.
Common Cause, a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights watchdog, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent a letter to Dorsey on Thursday decrying Twitter’s “insufficient” response to the stream of bullshit election tweets Trump has pushed out this week. For obvious reasons, I won’t be rehashing every false or misleading claim here, but for the sake of context, some of his greatest hits include: ranting without evidence about secret ballot dumps, falsely claiming that ballots received after Election Day would not be counted, and prematurely declaring victory in several states before election officials there announced the final results.
The overwhelming bulk of these claims appear to violate Twitter’s terms of service, particularly its Civic Integrity Policy. This policy, which Twitter expanded in September in bracing for the U.S. presidential race, prohibits users from posting misleading or inaccurate information about voting or elections. This includes content “intended to undermine public confidence” in these civic processes as well as false claims about an election’s outcome.
The policy clearly states that accounts with repeated violations will be permanently suspended, though Twitter’s historically made an exception for the president. It has slapped several of Trump’s tweets this week with labels cautioning that they contain disputed or misleading information about the election and it’s taken steps to limit their engagement, but critics say this damage control doesn’t go far enough.
“We fear that, in the absence of action by Twitter, the President may be successful in his goal of delegitimizing the integrity of our democratic processes for many, and not just Twitter users but other voters and members of the public, sowing uncertainty about the voting and elections process, and potentially inciting violence against civil servants or others,” said the letter, which was signed by Common Cause president Karen Flynn and the head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Kristen Clarke.
The letter goes on to cite the accounts of several “foreign and domestic actors” that Twitter has previously locked for repeated rule violations, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and right-wing British columnist Katie Hopkins.
Any other Twitter user “who repeatedly and deliberately violated Twitter’s terms of service in this manner would also have their account locked,” the letter continues. It states that even a 12-hour suspension “would provide a cooling period to recognize the multiple violations” since their “intensity and frequency” suggests that Trump intends to keep using the platform to “promote disinformation in the period ahead.”
In an email to Gizmodo, a company spokesperson confirmed that Twitter had received the letter and is drafting a response. Though the likelihood of them actually following through with a suspension is pretty dismal. When it comes to moderating the president’s posts, Twitter and its fellow social media giant, Facebook, have historically erred on the side of caution, arguing that even his most outrageous claims are a matter of public interest and should be preserved online (albeit occasionally with prominent labels disclaiming how crap they are).