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Last August, as Trump continued to commit gross violations of the Twitter Terms of Service (TOS), including violations of almost every one (including what now amounts to more than 18,000 lies according to the Washington Post), BuzzFlash called on Twitter (see below) to fairly enforce its TOS and ban Donald Trump. He had exceeded the grounds for mere suspension before he even assumed office.

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Trump’s Faustian deal with the DC press corps in general is: I make sensational statements and tweets that divert you from the real failures and toxic policies in my administration and you amplify them to attract more readers and viewers and your owners make more revenue. That is the same case with Twitter. On the day that most news outlets are claiming the US surpassed 100,000 deaths despite Trump promising just a few weeks ago (on February 28) that the Coronavirus is “going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear” — on this day the lead story for many TV broadcasts, online and in papers is a Trump made- -for-diversion sensationalistic Twitter saga that he has successfully strung out over many news cycles.

Twitter should do the right thing and shut Trump’s Twitter account down, but it won’t. Its revenue would be at stake, and that speaks volumes about money and political power.

In a normal presidency, the news would have been focused on the 100,000 dead, the majority due to willful negligence on Trump’s part, and his role in the spreading of COVID-19 through undermining testing and Protective Personal Equipment. But the three day plus Twitter calculated blow-up has largely distracted the media from holding him accountable.

Trump knows that he needed something particularly shocking on Twitter to keep the media from criticizing him for golfing twice while the US reached the milestone of 100,000 losses, so he accused Joe Scarborough of possibly being responsible for the death of a former intern in his Fort Walton, Florida office when he was a Republican Congressman from the Florida Panhandle. Lori Klausutis was found dead on July 19, 2001, in what a coroner ruled was brain trauma due to an accidental fall caused by a heart problem.

This weekend was not the first time Trump brought up his disproved conspiracy theory, but Klausutis’ husband made a poignant appeal, in a letter to Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, to remove the cruel Trump tweets that the conservative online publication, the Washington Examiner, concluded made Trump “unfit for office.” Twitter refused to delete the Trump baseless Klausutis tweets, even though they have been proven false and are causing personal and profound distress to Timothy Klausutis.

Instead, Twitter blathered that they were reconsidering how to handle the tweets of public figures and put a fact-check notice on two of Trump’s tweets with misinformation on vote fraud (which has allowed him to extend the “battle” with Twitter to include more headlines about his accusations of alleged voter fraud). Many readers thought that this meant Twitter would now be fact-checking all of Trump’s tweets, but instead only held out the possibility, not likely, that they might consider further action. In the meantime, they allowed Trump to continue a personal attack that violates the core of its Terms of Service.

If Twitter were even remotely concerned about stopping bullying, intimidation, shaming, abuse, harassment, unfounded accusations and hateful rhetoric by Trump, they would have banned him long ago. The August, 2019 BuzzFlash Commentary below explains how they give Trump special latitude because of his news value and that he is a public figure.

That, however, is all a euphemism for the three reasons they won’t ban, extensively fact-check him, delete the unforgivable Klausutis tweets or rein Trump in in any serious way:

  • Trump is worth incalculable dollars in free brand publicity for Twitter. It doesn’t matter that he provides that brand marketing based on reprehensible and factless tweets, Twitter is the beneficiary of daily worldwide publicity because of Trump’s sensationalistic tweets. And they need it, because they made a profit for the first time in 2018 and have overall been trending a loss in users.
  • Trump enhances revenue for Twitter by bringing more eyes to the site and increasing advertising revenue.
  • As indicated in Trump’s vague threats to create laws to keep Twitter from even posting the two fact-checks, as a standard operating procedure to critics of allowing him on the site at all, Trump promised to regulate or shut down Twitter and other social media (even though Facebook leans pro-Trump and allows his campaign to post hundreds of ads with proven lies on the site). However, Trump’s effort to regulate social media is not going to actually be implement, even with Trump’s Executive Order to “control” social media and eliminate liability protection on Thursday. None of this will likely go into effect for both legal and practical reasons. However, Twitter is going to continue to try and avoid giving Trump the opportunity “to crack down on them” by not regulating his tweets with more than a slap on the wrist.

Trump doesn’t have the authority to regulate the content of a corporate website, and he would not be able to focus the news media on distractions to avoid responsibility for his sociopathology and ineptitude. It’s just his strategy to stretch the diversion from the deaths of 100,000 Americans and his responsibility for enabling virus spread another day or two.

Overall, over three days, Trump has masterfully used Twitter to diminish coverage of the most deadly dereliction of duty in United States history (and also to amplify his groundless charges of voter fraud). Twitter is helping him do it, even in allowing him to rant that Twitter is discriminating against conservatives.

That is all part of a mutual, if tacit, understanding between Jack Dorsey and Trump. They are good for each other. Twitter gives Trump an international forum to abuse, harass, lie, incite, bully, appeal to his base, and intimidate, but most of all to provide catnip to the media to keep them from focusing on the real stories that they should be covering and Trump’s culpitude and moral turpitude.

In return, Trump makes Twitter a brand name around the world, attracts millions and millions of users (which is vital to Twitter because overall it is losing users), and most importantly massively increasing revenue for the company (which only first achieved a profit in 2018.)

It’s a master distraction machine for Trump, and Trump is a lifesaver for Twitter.

On August 16 one-time Trump communications director and former Trump fluffer (now turned critic), Anthony Scaramucci, was locked out of his Twitter account for apparently fat-shaming Trump:

As noted above, Scaramucci told Jonathan Swan of Avios, ““I should have said he is the largest proportioned President since William Howard Taft.” Indeed, Twitter is known to be quite the enforcer of any bullying, shaming, hate speech and violent rhetoric, among other standards.

Indeed, according to Twitter’s terms of service, Donald Trump should be banned from the message platform that reaches round the world on several accounts. As the summary of “The Twitter Rules” state:

Twitter's purpose is to serve the public conversation. Violence, harassment and other similar types of behavior discourage people from expressing themselves, and ultimately diminish the value of global public conversation. Our rules are to ensure all people can participate in the public conversation freely and safely.

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That certainly sounds like it applies to Trump, specifically these two Twitter standards (and there are other violations Trump engages in, particularly with his retweets that he incredulously denies responsiblity for):

Abuse/harassment: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so.

Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.

It is not worth the time to recount all Trump’s tweets that violate these Twitter terms of use, because they encompass not only his presidency, but his weaponizing of his Twitter account before he began his campaign for president. One only need recently recall his vituperative vilification of the soft-spoken Congressman Elijah Cummings and his hateful racist-coded description of Baltimore as rat-infested. Of course, there was the infamous attack on “The Squad” as being un-American and threats that they “should go back home,” even though all four are US citizens.

Indeed, yesterday, the mayor of Portland Oregon chastised Trump for an incendiary tweet that blamed, in advance, leftist protesters for any violence that might occur during an alt-right rally:

According to The Guardian:

Speaking to CNN, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said of Trump’s tweet: “Frankly, it’s not helpful. This is a potentially dangerous and volatile situation, and adding to that noise doesn’t do anything to support or help the efforts that are going on here in Portland.”

Those three fusillades alone would be enough to get any other Twitter user suspended, if not blocked. Considering that Trump’s often blistering and bullying tweets go round the world, considering that his gross violations of both the violence/harassment and hateful conduct standards — on an unrelenting basis— Trump poses a far greater danger than the average Twitter user. In essence, Twitter has been Trump’s megaphone for vile and odious hatred, mocking and divisiveness, with the mainstream corporate media amplifying every sordid tweet.

Furthermore, Twitter should factor in that Trump regularly tweets outright lies. An August 12, Washington Post Fact Checker column is headlined: “President Trump has made 12,019 false or misleading claims over 928 days.”

Why doesn’t Twitter ban Trump when it regularly suspends or bans users whose inciting tweets don’t have the “priming racism” and explosive impact of Trump’s tweets?

A November, 2017, article in the Independent included a response from Twitter as to why they don’t shutter Trump’s account. The Independent approached Twitter after Trump tweeted that “North Korean leadership ‘won't be around much longer.’” North Korea responded by stating that the tweet was “an act of war,” and that it would start shooting down US bombers (which it didn’t). Given a tweet that could have set off a nuclear war, Twitter remained adamant in keeping Trump’s account open, as it indicated in its response to the Independent:

But at that time, Twitter said that despite the fact that tweet was a clear danger and a potential flouting of its rules, the president's account would be staying around. It said that it considers a "number of factors" and that one of them is "newsworthiness" – suggesting the tweet will stay up because it is in the "public interest.”

"We hold all accounts to the same rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether Tweets violate our rules," the company wrote in a long tweet thread on its “Policy” account. "Among the considerations is newsworthiness and whether a Tweet is of public interest.

"This has long been internal policy and we'll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it. We need to do better on this, and will.

"Twitter is committed to transparency and keeping people informed about what's happening in the world. We'll continue to be guided by these fundamental principles."

Of course what went unsaid in Twitter’s statement to the Independent is that as a corporation it would be subject to fierce retaliation from the brass-knuckle bully in the White House were it to suspend or block Trump’s inexorably destructive Twitter account.

Then, of course, there is the enormous free branding and user growth (which translates into revenue) that comes from the president of the United States making Twitter a daily news item around the world. No money could buy this monstrously large amount of publicity.

Meanwhile, people like the “Mooch” get suspended for fat-shaming. (Ironically, around the same time Trump fat-shamed a person at a rally whom Trump mistakenly thought was a protester.)

The future of democracy and this planet are in perilous jeopardy. Trump’s tweets exacerbate and inflame a precarious moment in history.

Twitter should do the right thing and shut Trump’s Twitter account down, but it won’t. Its revenue would be at stake, and that speaks volumes about money and political power as we near the potentially cataclysmic election of 2020.

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Mark Karlin
BuzzFlash