Twitter allowed several world leaders to remain on the platform despite clearly promoting violence both before and after banning former President Donald Trump in the aftermath of last year’s Capitol riot, the fifth installment of the “Twitter Files” revealed on Monday.
Trump, now 76, was suspended on Jan. 8, 2021 after tweeting: “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
Independent journalist Bari Weiss reported, based on Twitter’s internal communications, that the Trump ban was pushed by both low-level staffers and executives like Vijaya Gadde — then the site’s head of legal, policy and trust — based on a generous reading of its policy against “glorification of violence” that argued “American Patriots” referred to the Capitol rioters.
However, the social media giant took a far different approach in its treatment of Trump than it did with the leaders of other countries who fired off far more incendiary posts.
In June 2018, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted in English: “#Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen.”
“Twitter neither deleted the tweet nor banned the Ayatollah,” Weiss pointed out on Twitter.
Lest the platform’s inaction be considered an oversight, a Twitter representative told members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in July 2020 that Khamenei’s tweets calling for the destruction of the Jewish state were OK under the platform’s policy.
“We have an approach to world leaders that presently [says] direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy saber-rattling on military and economic issues are generally not in violation of our Twitter rules,” the flack said at the time.
Weiss then highlighted an October 2020 tweet from former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who wrote that Muslims “have a right” to “kill millions of French people.”
“Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past,” Mohamad tweeted in response to a terror attack in which an Islamist assailant killed three people in a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice.
Twitter deleted the tweet for “glorifying violence,” according to Weiss, but Mohamad was neither suspended nor banned for his violent rhetoric.
Similarly, in June 2021, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had a tweet warning Biafran separatists of bloodshed deleted by the company — but he, too, was allowed to stay on.
“Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” wrote Buhari, referencing the conflict from 1967 to 1970 that left millions dead due to war and famine.
Even when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government “threatened to arrest Twitter employees in India, and to incarcerate them for up to seven years” after the social media company restored the accounts of hundreds of Modi critics, Twitter did not ban the prime minister.
Last month, new Twitter CEO Elon Musk reinstated Trump’s account after a two-year ban.
However, the former president has not returned to the platform, preferring to post messages and statements on Truth Social, one of several alternatives to Twitter that have sprung up in recent years.