In the Saturday installation of the “Twitter Files,” author Michael Shellenberger detailed the scramble among the platform’s executives to ban President Donald Trump for political reasons immediately after the January 6 protests. His report also indicates that Twitter’s former chief of “Trust and Safety,” Yoel Roth, also pressed for banning Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) on January 7, 2021.
Roth campaigned internally to ban Gaetz even though he messaged one employee that it would not be consistent with established company policy.
An employee messaged Roth on January 7, “What’s the latest on Antifa claims?” The message appears to be about a tweet posted by Gaetz the day before alleging that Antifa had “infiltrated Trump protestors who stormed Capitol.” The statement indicated another employee was “yelling from the other room that we should just ban Gaetz.”
Roth responded to the message by saying he had other staffers “working on that.”
Roth admitted in another internal corporate message that Gaetz’s tweet “doesn’t quite fit anywhere (duh),” apparently referring to the fact the message did not violate any established standards or terms of service.
Roth wrote: “But I’m trying to talk safety into treating it as incitement. I think we’ll get over the line for removal as a conspiracy that incites violence.” He added that then-head of Legal, Policy, and Trust Vijaya Gadde was “okay with it.”
As things played out, Gaetz’s account was not banned from the platform.
What happens next is essential to understanding how Twitter justified banning Trump.
Sales exec: "are we dropping the public interest [policy] now…"
Roth, six hours later: "In this specific case, we're changing our public interest approach for his account…" pic.twitter.com/XRUFil2npI
— Michael Shellenberger (@ShellenbergerMD) December 11, 2022
The discussion about the prospects for banning Gaetz was happening simultaneously with similar conversations being held about banning President Donald Trump from Twitter. About seven hours after the messages about Gaetz were exchanged, Roth wrote to a company sales executive that the company was “changing its public interest approach for Trump’s account to say any violation would result in a suspension.”
Twitter’s established standards protect elected officials from censorship or banning through a “public-interest exception.” The rule says that such tweets are not to be restricted “so that the public may be aware of and discuss the users’ actions and statements.”