He who lives by the tweet should die by the tweet. Why Twitter and its executives must permanently block Donald Trump’s use of the platform.
Dear Mr. Dorsey,
You don’t know me, but I am hoping that the urgency with which I publish this letter will convince you to give me a piece of your time to listen. I’m not someone who most people would consider to be an important figurehead; I’m just an ordinary American who wants to see his country not only prosper, but prosper with a sense of justice, fairness, and equality to everyone who lives here. You no doubt understand both what is about to happen in our country, and the significant role that you and your platform are playing during this moment in American history. Today, I speak to you with the voice of many millions of American citizens who fear for the very survival of the nation.
For over a year-and-a-half now, Donald Trump has engaged in a sort of “scorched earth” campaign against anyone he feels is a political adversary. However, Trump’s definition of an “adversary” has included literally anyone with whom he has a disagreement, as well as entire groups of people who have sought nothing more than equal representation and treatment in America. To date, Trump has insulted and offended: Blacks and the Black Lives Matter movement; women; Mexicans and Latinos; Muslims; other Republicans within his own party; immigrants; people suffering from disabilities; and the entire news media which has covered his campaign from the beginning. In short, there are virtually zero demographic groups which he has not personally targeted for his own brand of vitriol. And Trump has pursued his targets in both social media and real-world forums, even singling out individual members of the press like NBC News’ Katy Tur and CNN’s John Acosta, for ridicule.
I am going to share some specific examples on Twitter of Donald Trump’s ongoing campaign of harassment in short order. What I hope to do throughout the remainder of this letter is to outline in detail just how Trump’s actions damage Twitter, our nation’s most important institutions, and potentially, the country as a whole.
Cataloguing Trump’s Abuses
As stated earlier, Donald Trump has no qualms about confronting anyone who disagrees with him with hateful rhetoric and personal insults. He has also used Twitter’s anti-trolling tools to block individual Americans from being able to follow him. Imagine for one moment: The President of the United States using a social media platform as a way to prevent Americans from seeing what he is doing as the leader of the free world. This alone would present a cause for alarm; taken in totality with his other actions, it is a breathtaking attempt to literally block citizens around the globe from seeing into the Trump presidency. As Trump has chosen Twitter as his own personal press secretary — and effectively renounced most of the mainstream media outlets of this country as “fake news” — this should cause you substantial alarm.
But I cannot expect you to take the actions I am asking of you without laying out a case for doing so. So I submit for your consideration the primary reasons why you should block Donald Trump from using the Twitter service — permanently:
1. His use of Twitter to harass anyone who disagrees with or is critical of he or his policies;
2. His attempts to dictate policy over social media instead of through the power of his office;
3. His use of Twitter to undermine the information and security apparatuses of the United States.
Using Twitter to Harass His Critics
Donald Trump, both as a candidate and as president-elect, has consistently used Twitter as a platform from which to assail anyone who chooses to disagree with him or otherwise confront him with damaging information — usually facts. In dealing with the news media in particular, Trump has, as mentioned earlier, singled out specific reporters for direct attacks. Take, for example, the following tweets directed either to, or at least about, NBC News reporter Katy Tur:
In each of these tweets, Donald Trump is leveling personal, harassing insults to specific members of the news media. Tur, as I am sure you already know, was embedded with the Trump campaign for its duration, yet in another tweet, he insisted that she had no access to the campaign and thus was writing false reports:
Of course, Tur is not the only victim. Earlier this week, a Manhattan judge threw out a lawsuit filed by Republican commentator Cheryl Jacobus, who had sued for defamation after Trump called her a “major loser” and a “real dummy” on Twitter:
Jacobus was approached by the Trump team for a position but allegedly turned it down after things became heated between she, Trump, and then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski; however, Trump has contended that they actually turned her down, prompting the retaliation. However, in this screen grab from the thread on Twitter, it is fairly obvious that Jacobus is telling the truth:
Trump has also targeted civil rights icon and legislator John Lewis. In a recent MSNBC interview, Lewis declared that he does not see Donald Trump as a “legitimate president” and agreed with intelligence suggesting that the government of Russia interfered with the November election. Today, over Twitter, Trump lashed out yet again:
Lewis, of course was an instrumental figure in the civil rights movement, having co-led the infamous march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on 3–7–1965, in what became known as “Bloody Sunday” after Alabama state troopers brutally attacked the peaceful marchers. Lewis continues his fight for civil rights to this day — as evidenced by his words about president-elect Trump after his brutal campaign attacked almost every major demographic in America.
Trump’s earlier tweets, however, constitute both an attack on Congressman Lewis and on everyone in his district. Consider the infographic in the following tweet, which was shared after Trump’s attack on Lewis:
In Lewis’ allegedly failing Congressional district, nearly 88% of all adults at least have high school diplomas, and 40% have actual college degrees — certainly not a sign of failure. Additionally, a September 2016 report reveals that crime in Lewis’ district has fallen 30% since 2009 — clearly annihilating Trump’s claim that he has achieved nothing. Even GOP Senator Ben Sasse hit back against Trump’s comments, acknowledging how Lewis has “changed the world”:
Yet Trump’s attacks on Congressman Lewis demonstrate yet another example of how he seeks to lash out at literally everyone who disagrees with him or attempts to confront him, in any legitimate way, over anything whatsoever. This is a pattern of abusive behavior by our president-elect, and he has chosen Twitter as the platform from which to conduct this campaign of harassment.
Trump Uses Twitter as a Platform to Conduct Policy, Rather than the Power of the Office
Since becoming president-elect, Donald Trump has used the Twitter platform repeatedly as a means to informally conduct policy, rather than waiting to take over in any official capacity. This has already created chaos by signaling potential US policy shifts before he has even taken the oath of office. In turn, it has not only created concern about the US on an international level; it has also effectively undermined President Obama’s final days in office by forcing him to do damage control against an incoming administration instead of trying to conduct any meaningful business before departing.
Perhaps no tweet coming from Trump since his election has generated more alarm than this one. This is the incoming President of the United States demonstrating a willingness to throw away decades of nuclear non-proliferation in the name of hubris. For Donald Trump to suggest that America needs to once again work on expanding its nuclear arsenal is to potentially start a new nuclear arms race with foreign governments far more malevolent in their intent (Russia, for example).
But in addition to sparking fears of expanding nuclear armaments worldwide, Trump has been quick to heap praise upon Russian president Vladimir Putin, despite indications he was personally involved in hacking which may have skewed the election in favor of Trump:
Trump has also used Twitter to publicly rebuke intelligence community findings against the Russian government:
Trump’s denial of news, facts, and American intelligence will make up the remainder of my appeal, but this helps to illustrate ways in which Trump’s use of Twitter to influence policy before he even takes the oath of office is dangerous in itself. Bloomberg recently published its own story on how Trump will likely continue trying to influence policy via Twitter:
President-elect Donald Trump won’t end the onslaught of posts on Twitter that fed his unconventional campaign, even after taking on the formalized duties of the Oval Office later this month.
Making news and issuing statements on social media sites that also include Facebook and Instagram will “absolutely” continue, despite earlier promises by Trump to cut back, incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
“You know what? The fact of the matter is that when he tweets, he gets results,” Spicer said.
Donald Trump Uses Twitter to Undermine the Information and Security Apparatuses of the United States
Up until now, my appeal to you has revolved around Donald Trump’s use of Twitter to harass others and to attempt to legislate via social media. My final appeal to you concerns something far more grave: Trump’s attempt to use Twitter as a way to rebuke the most important organizations put in place to inform and to secure the United States.
I have already touched briefly upon Trump’s public rebukes of the actual news media through my discussion of his attacks on media figures such as Katy Tur; you can see another example in one of his tweets about Russia which I highlighted a moment ago. In essence, Trump is quick to praise any media outlet or figure which agrees or praises him, but is equally swift in his condemnation of any media outlet which criticizes him.
And it is Trump’s reactionary nature which is the greatest cause for alarm in his dealings with the news media. Trump only works with the media when they show him in a positive light; as soon as coverage turns critical, he takes to Twitter to retaliate against them. But it’s also important to understand how Trump takes the media to task both on and off of Twitter. Consider this outburst from Trump at his press conference earlier this week:
“Yeah, it is going to be like this,” Trump said when asked if this is how he would behave with the press as president. “You think I’m gonna change? I’m not gonna change.”
At one point, Trump fumed: “I’m the only one in the world who can raise almost $6 million for the veterans, have uniform applause by the veterans groups, and end up being criticized by press.”
“I think the political press is among the most dishonest people that I have ever met, I have to tell you. I see the stories, and I see the way they’re couched,” he added.
Trump has also shunned the traditional media in other ways, such as ditching his press corps and refusing to allow reporters to travel with him to meet with President Obama soon after the election. PEN America offers this warning regarding Trump’s denial of press access to his incoming administration:
“Trump’s decision to exclude reporters from his campaign plane en route to essential discussions on the nation’s transition is a warning sign when it comes to the transparency we can expect from the incoming Administration,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN America. “We urge President-elect Trump to ensure that the press has the access necessary to play its key role at a pivotal time of change for this country.”
That Trump seeks to push out America’s most important access to his administration — the free press — in favor of a social media platform is a dangerous sign of what may be to come in terms of First Amendment rights in America. Consider this essay about why we need the press to rein in government figures such as Donald Trump; he is seeking to close off at least a portion of the media — that which would seek to criticize his already-questionable agenda — in favor of only coverage which is favorable to him. The news media for generations has been America’s most important avenue to learn about the inner workings of its government, and to question its policy decisions when they clearly go against Americans or the nation as a whole. For our soon-to-be President of the United States to actively shut out and even publicly condemn the news media for exercising its constitutional rights to serve the American people is a borderline act of treason. At the very least, it damages the whole of the American populace by restricting its right to know what its leaders are doing at any given time while performing their jobs. The damage this can potentially cause is immeasurable.
Trump, however, is not content to just target the primary information services of America; he has now targeted the intelligence community itself, whose role it is to investigate potential threats and to protect America and its people from harm. What I posted above is only a glimpse into Trump’s attacks against American intelligence. We also have these:
A New Republic report reveals that Trump believes that the intelligence apparatus needs to be cut down, and that the very nature of American intelligence is now politicized. Additionally, CBS News reported recently that Trump’s condemnation of American intelligence is likely leading to reduced morale among the community, and Vice President Joe Biden subsequently condemned Trump’s dismissal of their work:
“For a president not to have confidence in, not to be prepared to listen to, the myriad of intelligence agencies, from defense intelligence to the CIA, et cetera, is absolutely mindless,” Biden said.
The implications of the President of the United States distrusting his/her own officials are staggering. What government, for example, would ever want to work with the intelligence community if its chief client — the president — doesn’t even trust it? How are we to gather information about foreign competition and threats, or even terror threats from individuals living abroad, if the international community feels that either the president or intelligence officials — or possibly both — are not trustworthy? Trump’s refusal to trust his own intelligence staff presents a national security nightmare for the United States and its people, and it is not one which can easily be resolved. What’s more, how can we expect to even maintain individuals interested in working within the community when Trump himself effectively creates a hostile work environment for them? This is just another of a myriad of examples in which Donald Trump does not think about the potential consequences of his actions. And now, less than one week before he takes the oath of office, what reasonable person can think that he will ever think through the consequences before launching his next attack, whether it be on Twitter or in the real world?
Why This All Matters to Twitter
Mr. Dorsey, I have finished laying out my case against Donald Trump’s continued allowance to remain on the Twitter platform. But I also know that you are a businessman, and you need to hear why any of this should matter to either you, the company, or your shareholders. So I will conclude by attempting to lay this out plainly and clearly.
As a communications platform, Twitter has been instrumental in helping to bring about positive changes throughout the world. This slideshow, for example, shows 10 of the top world events which became Twitter milestones, including the now-famous Hudson River landing, the end of Osama bin Laden, and the 2008 Chinese earthquakes. Twitter has demonstrated itself to be a powerful player in terms of breaking news, able to disseminate information from both bystanders and official sources quickly, effectively, and (mostly) accurately. The Arab Spring in 2012 further demonstrated Twitter’s importance as a mechanism to fuel revolution against oppressive government regimes. We even experienced this here in America, when first-hand accounts on Twitter gave us an in-depth look into police brutality committed against the citizens of Ferguson, MO, during protests against the killing of Michael Brown. I personally remember both images and videos showing up on my timeline which exemplified the militarization of police in Ferguson, and their willingness to disperse protests by any means necessary. In short, Twitter has evolved into an important tool for sharing information, giving more insight into important events, and in creating a mechanism to push back against oppression in government, politics, and even law enforcement.
But Twitter can never be a replacement for the organized news media as we have come to know it. With the recent advent of fake news permeating throughout social media, outlets like Facebook, Twitter, etc., do not have the type of discipline we see in more traditional media. Social media platforms cannot force their users to abide by any specific ethical standards or to vet information before posting it. Such terms would be decried as censorship by many in the general public. Instead, social media platforms are tools which can be used to expand the reach of vital information globally, and to add additional context from local participants whenever more mainstream sources are unavailable or simply unable to do so; they should enhance the distribution of news, but they cannot become the only source of news, due to their more unpredictable nature. As mentioned at the very beginning of this letter, Trump has already blocked some from even being able to view his tweets; should he be successful at driving out the media, these people will have no representation in government by the President of the United States. This would be an absolute stranglehold on information about our government, and in itself would be unconstitutional.
And this is at the core of my argument: By attacking the press, and by extension press freedom, Donald Trump seeks to intimidate, suppress, and potentially even replace the traditional media as a primary source of information coming from himself and his administration. Trump is already doing everything he possibly can to cut off all dissent against his views and policies. That dissent is the most important tool that America has to prevent Trump from using the power of the presidency to roll back social reforms, sanctions and other punishments against hostile regimes, and outright usurpation of the Constitution and all of the rights and freedoms granted within. And by attacking aspects of his own government, he is signaling to the rest of the world that he and those closest to him are the only ones anyone should be listening to. He has already sent a message to Russia that they should not worry about President Obama’s recent sanctions against them for attempting to undermine our entire democracy. To the rest of the world, he has signaled that he is willing to usher in a new nuclear arms race, amplifying the threat of nuclear annihilation. (On a personal note: I am just waiting to see what the Doomsday Clock will be set to once Trump is inaugurated.) This is perhaps the ultimate attack on American freedom and values; Donald Trump is not only the enemy within, he is possibly the most important enemy the country has faced in its history.
The damage is already beginning to manifest itself. Vladimir Putin, for example, has a higher approval rating among Trump’s supporters than the current American president:
The Washington Post has also published a new story indicating that Trump has already convinced a significant number of Republican voters to distrust American intelligence:
According to a new Quinnipiac University poll — conducted, notably, before the Wednesday news conference at which Trump said he thought Russia did it — 64 percent of Republicans disagreed that “the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election through hacking.” Just 29 percent agreed.
Digging down deeper, of the 29 percent of Republicans who agreed that Russia tried, just 43 percent of them said it was intended to help Trump. A majority — 51 percent — disagreed.
So that’s about 1 in 8 Republicans who believe the intelligence community’s consensus conclusion that Russia hacked and that it specifically did so to help Trump in the 2016 election.
And in perhaps the ultimate warning sign of things to come, Human Rights Watch has formally declared Donald Trump to be a global threat to human rights. The Hill reports:
“Donald Trump’s election as US president after a campaign fomenting hatred and intolerance, and the rising influence of political parties in Europe that reject universal rights, have put the postwar human rights system at risk,” the group said in a Friday statement announcing a new report.
The 687-page World Report analyzes Trump’s campaign, pointing to his rhetoric as a cause for worry over human rights violations.
“(Trump’s) campaign floated proposals that would harm millions of people, including plans to engage in massive deportations of immigrants, to curtail women’s rights and media freedoms, and to use torture,” the report says, quoting Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth.
“Unless Trump repudiates these proposals, his administration risks committing massive rights violations in the US and shirking a longstanding, bipartisan belief, however imperfectly applied, in a rights-based foreign policy agenda.”
What I hope is becoming clear by now is that Donald Trump presents a grave threat to our country, and potentially even to the rest of the world. In his use of Twitter to proliferate an anti-media, anti-intelligence, and anti-truth agenda, he has the potential to undermine or even destroy many of the institutions which have led America to its dominance in world affairs coming into the 21st Century. I have already outlined how Twitter has contributed to growth in the world. But if Twitter continues to allow Trump to go on unabated, then it may also contribute to the worst kinds of global change. Trump has criticized evidence of global warming and climate change, Russian involvement in our election, the validity of the entire Muslim population, the role of Black Lives Matter with respect to police brutality and race relations, and let’s not forget that he has effectively condoned sexual assaults on women by celebrities! There is no question that Donald Trump will continue to try and use Twitter to condemn anyone and everyone who criticizes him. There is no question that he will use Twitter to attack American intelligence and government institutions, including those like John Lewis who have brought about enormous good to the country. To Donald Trump, Twitter is a throne, a place from which to broadcast his ego and hubris to anyone willing to listen. For all of the good that Twitter has helped to bring about in the world, one Donald J. Trump has the power to negate all of it, while causing enormous harm to the rest of the world.
Mr. Dorsey, you cannot allow this to happen. Donald Trump is not an ordinary celebrity or political figure; he is about to become President of the United States, one with an agenda destined to decimate any number of societal norms, civil liberties, and foreign relations. When human rights organizations deem one man, one world leader, to be a threat to international human rights, that man must be cut off from enacting his agenda as much as humanly possible. We are not talking about more traditional Twitter arguments or the occasional stupid comments between a few individuals; this would at least be understandable, even for a world leader (We are all only human, after all!). We are talking about systemic hostility from a president-elect, hostility which targets all dissension, all opposing viewpoints, no matter from whom they originate, and no matter how valid such viewpoints may be. We are talking about someone who arguably has committed treason against the United States and who is using Twitter as a platform to turn any number of his supporters against the country. This is a very real, persistent threat to the nation. Twitter cannot be complicit.
So I am asking you with every fiber of my being to forcibly and permanently remove Donald Trump from the Twitter platform. Trump can never be allowed to tweet again. We must take his “toy” away from him like the spoiled brat that he is. As Trump uses Twitter as a substitute for traditional reporting and transparency, this is the sharpest rebuke to his agenda that anyone can bring. Do not allow him or anyone on his staff to reopen an account for him. Lock out the official POTUS Twitter handle, and prevent him or his staff from using even it. If there is any hope for Donald Trump to be tamed such that he can actually become a viable president and work towards the good of America, this is the first step. If he cannot, then this will at least demonstrate the will of America to survive even in spite of his best efforts to destroy it. Mr. Dorsey, you have an extremely important decision to make regarding the role of Twitter in Donald Trump’s administration. I hope with everything I am that you will make the right one.