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Why Twitter banned Trump

It's clear from Dorsey's tweets that he loathed having to take the action.

Jack Dorsey
Photo: Amal KS/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Jack Dorsey, after a notably long silence on his platform's ban of @realdonaldtrump, took to Twitter on Wednesday night to try and explain himself. (Maybe he's finally home from his vacation in French Polynesia.)

"I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter, or how we got here," Dorsey wrote. "After a clear warning we'd take this action, we made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter." Over a series of tweets, he tried to explain, but the answer seemed to boil down to the fact that the possibility of real-world harm seemed large and imminent, and Twitter felt it had to act.

It's clear from Dorsey's tweets that he loathed having to take the action, even if he believed it to be the right one. "Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation," he said. "They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation." This, by the way, is a power and a precedent a lot of people feel is dangerous. Dorsey has proven to be one of the internet's — one of society's — most powerful people, and he doesn't seem to relish that responsibility.

More problematic for Dorsey is the fact that cloud providers like AWS also took actions on objectionable content last week. Dorsey said that the fact that users could always leave Twitter for another service was core to its ability to moderate as it saw fit; with fewer places to go, Dorsey seemed to say, Twitter's role might feel different.

Lastly, Dorsey used the opportunity to cast a broader vision for Twitter, the same one he's been talking about for a while now: Twitter as a protocol, not a platform. The project is called BlueSky, and it's already in progress at Twitter. It attempts to discover what it might look like if the internet had a conversational layer, and apps could plug into it however they wanted? Twitter would turn into something more like an email client: one way to view the underlying content, but not the only way, and certainly not the controller of the ecosystem.

That idea, he said, is part of why he's so fascinated by Bitcoin, "because of the model it demonstrates: a foundational internet technology that is not controlled or influenced by any single individual or entity. This is what the internet wants to be, and over time, more of it will be."

In short, it seems Dorsey feels Twitter made the right decision, wishes it didn't have to, and wants to build a world where it doesn't have to again. Or at the very least, one where Twitter can run the platform it wants to run without worrying about whether one CEO should be able to shut up the president.

Twitter’s future is newsletters and podcasts, not tweets

With Revue and a slew of other new products, Twitter is trying hard to move past texting.

We started with 140 characters. What now?

Image: Liv Iko/Protocol

Twitter was once a home for 140-character missives about your lunch. Now, it's something like the real-time nerve center of the internet. But as for what Twitter wants to be going forward? It's slightly more complicated.

In just the last few months, Twitter has rolled out Fleets, a Stories-like feature; started testing an audio-only experience called Spaces; and acquired the podcast app Breaker and the video chat app Squad. And on Tuesday, Twitter announced it was acquiring Revue, a newsletter platform. The whole 140-characters thing (which is now 280 characters, by the way) is certainly not Twitter's organizing principle anymore. So what is?

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

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