That’s right, still can’t let this Twitter thing go. Something’s been sticking in our craw about this whole Twitter banning a sitting President of the
United States and we think we have boiled it down to the seemingly oddly specific rule that Twitter used to justify it’s ban of President Trump. You see, the Twitter rules page includes an “Authenticity” section under which there is a “Civic Integrity” rule. If we are so bold as to “Learn more” about this civic integrity rule, we arrive at this page and the following snippet:
Misleading information about outcomes
We will label or remove false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election or other civic process. This includes but is not limited to:
- disputed claims that could undermine faith in the process itself, such as unverified information about election rigging, ballot tampering, vote tallying, or certification of election results; and
- misleading claims about the results or outcome of a civic process which calls for or could lead to interference with the implementation of the results of the process, e.g. claiming victory before election results have been certified, inciting unlawful conduct to prevent the procedural or practical implementation of election results (note that our violent threats policy may also be relevant for threats not covered by this policy).
First, remember that President Trump was permanently banned from Twitter for the following Tweet:
“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
Regarding this particular tweet, Twitter stated that the tweet about skipping the inauguration was “further confirmation that the election was not legitimate.”
Couple things. First, that’s thin Twitter. That’s a very subjective interpretation of that tweet. An objective person would read that as informational only. If the tweet had read:
“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the illegitimate Inauguration on January 20th.”
OK, then that would be a clear violation. But as the tweet stands, that’s just putting words in someone’s mouth. Second, the policy states “label or remove”, not “permanently ban for all time”. Minor point, and yes down at the bottom there is a permanent ban warning for repeated violations. And it is very specific about the 5 strike process and everything. But third, how about that part about “inciting unlawful conduct to prevent the procedural or practical implementation of election results”. That’s, wow, that’s extremely specific considering the events of January 6th, 2021. Like really specific. Did that rule go up before or after January 6th? When exactly did that rule come about? Inquiring minds want to know.
If only we had a time machine and could go back in time to read the Twitter rules page at various points in the past. If only… Oh wait, shit, this is the age of the Internet, we actually have one of those! It’s called the “Wayback Machine“. The Wayback Machine is a time machine of sorts that captures and archives pages on the Internet. With the Wayback Machine, we can peek back into ancient times to read web pages that talk about ridiculously old-fashioned things like going to a movie theater, eating inside a NYC restaurant or even buying perfectly reasonable amounts of toilet paper.
So, using our time machine, we can actually dial the clock back to the first time that the Wayback Machine captured the Twitter rules page. And, while it took a bit of work, we finally decoded the magic number, 18311. You see, this was the original page name for the Twitter rules page, https://www.twitter.com/rules/18311. You can see the first listing in the Wayback Machine for this page on August 2nd, 2010 here. It’s a single, short page with no links to any sub pages. And, there’s no mention of Civic Integrity or really much else other than a really long section on spam.
OK, so this Twitter rules page remains remarkably consistent in content. You can view this page at the end of 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. It’s essentially the same. No mention of civic integrity or anything of the sort. However, 2019 is different.
On June 7th, 2019, the Wayback Machine first captures a version of the Twitter rules page that includes an “Authenticity” section and within that Authenticity section there is a rule about “Election integrity”. If we follow the “Learn more” link we arrive at a new sub page, the very first “Election integrity policy“. Well, not so fast, because the first version of this page was actually captured on April 28th, 2019 but apparently Twitter never bothered to link to it from their rules page until 2 months later. Incompetence aside, the policy states the following:
“You may not use Twitter’s services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections. This includes posting or sharing content that may suppress voter turnout or mislead people about when, where, or how to vote.“
OK, there is some verbiage here about interfering with elections but nothing about bitching and moaning about election results. However, down at the bottom, we also see the introduction of the “permanent suspension” language. Except that it is vague, like really vague. Alright, getting closer. And look at Twitter being all responsible and smart, getting out in front of that 2020 election by over a year! Oh, except…ummm…kind of hate to point this out, but you sort of whiffed on the two previous presidential election cycles so….yeah, not too swift are you Twitter? I mean, 2012, 2016? Pshaw! Hey man, you can interfere all you want, we know Barack Obama is getting re-elected and there’s no chance that Hillary is not getting in…
Moving on, let’s focus now on this “Election integrity policy”. Again, the content on this page remains relatively the same for like a a year and a half until September 11th, 2020. That’s an unfortunate day to pick. In any case, here is where what is essentially the current version of the page comes into being. The verbiage about misleading election blah blah blah is the same but now we have the bitching and moaning about election results clauses. So, why the sudden rule change?
Interestingly enough, if we use the Trump Twitter Archive. I know, right? Like that’s a thing. Holy smokes! It is a thing. Wow, well if we use this other time machine of ours, we find a tweet from President Trump on September 10th, 2020:
Sep 10th 2020 – 8:54:48 AM EST
Sending out 80 MILLION BALLOTS to people who aren’t even asking for a Ballot is unfair and a total fraud in the making. Look at what’s going on right now!
Causality? Hard to prove but it sure looks like Twitter is basically changing the rules of the game while it is being played. Trump tweets about possible fraud and Twitter responds by making a rule that talking about possible fraud is suddenly against the rules. But, whatever. Our moms always told us that changing the rules in the middle of the game was “cheating” but we never bought into that narrative either. So…you know…moms.
But, the amazing thing is that the September 11th, 2020 version of the page includes the verbiage:
“inciting unlawful conduct to prevent the procedural or practical implementation of election results“
What? As in literally what the hell? Nobody was talking about anything even remotely like what happened on January 6th, 2021 in any way shape or form at that time. Hell, every last reporter said something like “Nobody could have predicted…” and stuff like that. Bullshit! Apparently Twitter predicted it. Twitter. Like, how is that even possible? Did they know something?
Alright, alright, dial it back. We’re not conspiracy theorists here at The Objective Observer. But that’s…that’s just weird. The company that can’t get their shit together to protect the two previous election cycles is now suddenly omnipotently prescient? It’s…it’s hard to swallow. Just sayin’.
OK, one last item to wrap up. The current version of the “civic integrity” policy includes a “5 strikes and you’re out” clause. So when did that come about? Back to the Wayback Machine. Surely this 5 strikes language was in the policy before they banned a sitting President of the
United States. That way there is no possible confusion about the rules. Surely. Oh…well…nope. January 9th, 2021 is when the 5 strikes language was added. Wow. There’s a CYA moment for you!!
OK, so what is the point of all of this? Well, President Trump during his time in office continually complained about his unfair treatment in the press and such. In his mind, he was the “worst treated President of all time”. And, to be fair, we think that to any objective observer, he has a bit of a point there. Now, that’s not to say that a lot of it wasn’t self inflicted. The man tended to escalate and not deescalate. So, that’s on him.
Now, fairness is a core American concept. It’s sort of fundamental to the American narrative, that everyone is treated fair. Blind Lady Justice and all that. Sure, it’s a complete and utter lie. If you are rich, you don’t go to jail. But, it is an American ideal after all. It is what we strive for.
So, was President Trump treated fairly by Twitter? We’re going to have to go with big fat “no” on that one. Clearly, the evidence demonstrates that Twitter seemed to be changing their policy rules in response to President Trump’s tweets, effectively changing the rules of the middle of the game. Furthermore Twitter had a very vague “permanent ban” clause that was essentially entirely subjective and arbitrary. There was clearly no warning given to Trump such as small suspensions leading up to the ban as they have now. Then Twitter goes in and covers their ass by putting in that language. Finally, Twitter seems to have purposefully put words in President Trump’s mouth by inferring meaning in Trump’s final tweet that is a highly subjective interpretation.
So, was Trump treated fairly by Twitter? Well, you can decide for yourself but we think the evidence demonstrates that no, President Trump, regardless of what you think of the guy, wasn’t treated fairly. And that’s not the America we strive for quite frankly.