Ever since Trump’s presidential campaign took off, and certainly since he was elected, the media and the public have debated whether or not to take his tweets seriously. They are not “official” statements and so figures like Republican Speaker Paul Ryan have declined to comment on them.
True, Twitter is not an affidavit. Depending on your follower count, it’s also often like peeing into the wind because most people won’t see it or care.
Also true, however, is that it is wildly different when the tweets come from the most powerful man on the fucking planet. His tweets matter because his voice matters.
We should not ignore or take lightly Trump’s tweets. We should take them very seriously because they are currently the primary means of communication with the incoming administration. January 11 was his first press conference and he has shown nothing but disdain for the press. We should also take his tweets seriously because they are filled with insidious hateful rhetoric.
Twitter should ban President-elect Trump’s official account on the basis of their own rules against hate speech and threats. Trump would have no choice but to hold more press conferences and release “official” statements, both of which would hold his administration more accountable than a Twitter account can or should. Furthermore, it would demonstrate that Twitter takes hate speech seriously, especially when coming from the President of the United States.
After their legendary stand-off during a Republican primary debate, Trump developed a fixation with (now former) Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.
Technically he never called her a bimbo himself, but instead quoted and retweeted others who did.
Or else pulled the ole “I’m not saying what I’m about to say because I know it’s a shitty thing to say.”
Every time Trump suggested that Kelly is a bimbo, others jumped on the train and did the same. She was stalked. She and her family received death threats.
This saga demonstrated that he has the power to trigger violent behavior in his followers. More importantly, it proved that at best, he does not know he has this ability (highly unlikely, given how egotistical he is) and at worst, he knows he has such power over his fans and does not care about their behavior.
Megyn Kelly, for her part, never called for Trump’s removal from Twitter as a result of such harassment. One could argue that until she does, Trump has not violated the site’s harassment clause. However, he has still violated the rules against hateful conduct, which outline as follows:
“You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.”
It’s no secret that Trump has a history of racist rhetoric and behavior. His behavior has churned up an avalanche of hate crimes in his name, particularly against people of color, Muslims, and immigrants. Tweets like this one are fuel to the fire:
“Illegal voting” is code for illegal immigrant, which is code for black people, Latinos, and Muslims. The connection is clear and has only been strengthened by Trump’s election.
It’s decent logic to assume that Twitter would never ban Trump because his account drives so much traffic, by both supporters and opponents, resulting in an increased net worth of the company. However, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Twitter’s stock price has plummeted 52 percent since Trump’s campaign announcement in 2015. Moreover, their site traffic has remained relatively stagnant compared to competitors like Facebook.
Regardless of how profitable Trump might be for them or not, Twitter has an obligation to obey its own rules. To turn a blind eye to the obvious impact his presence has on the lives and safety of women and minorities makes Twitter complicit in his behavior. If anything, banning a sitting president could be the boost Twitter needs to stay afloat.