Journalists are increasingly asking — and urging — CNN to suspend or delete President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, as he continues his feud with MSNBC, CNN, and other media outlets that have been hostile to his administration.
Calls for Twitter to ban Trump began long before he took office. Slate.com suggested in November 2016 that Facebook was giving “preferential” treatment to the president-elect, while Twitter — which had banned “alt-right” users in the recent past — could boot him from its platform.
The New York Times published a commentary in December arguing that Twitter could suspend Trump — but advising it not to do so.
The Times’ Farhad Manjoo wrote in December 2016:
If Twitter wanted to, it would be well within its rights to suspend Donald J. Trump’s account.
As a corporation, Twitter is under no First Amendment obligation to let Mr. Trump use the service. It gets to make its own set of speech rules within its own walls, and among those rules is a prohibition on using the service to incite harassment.
And yet Twitter is in no position, now, to suspend @realDonaldTrump.
If you look closely at Mr. Trump’s Twitter messages, he has appeared to tack just inside the lines of the service’s rules of conduct. More than that, free speech advocates argue that Twitter’s policies ought to give great deference to political figures. Suspending Mr. Trump’s account would be censorship. Though Twitter is legally free to censor whomever it wants, it also has a duty to recognize how its actions affect the larger world.
The repercussions could be vast. As online services like Twitter become the world’s primary place for political dialogue, the rules they set up for policing political speech will have a wide-ranging impact — they could be used to ban not just billionaire presidents-elect, but also activists and dissidents across the globe.
But calls to ban Trump from Twitter continued. In January 2017, after Trump feuded with actress Meryl Streep, Chez Pazienza wrote at the Daily Banter that Trump’s Twitter account was “very, very dangerous, particularly as of January 20th. Which is why now is the time for Twitter to do the right thing and shut it down. The service should suspend Donald Trump permanently.”
Later that month, just before Trump’s inauguration, former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao and former Twitter executive Laura Gomez urged Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to suspend Trump, arguing that “@realdonaldtrump is bringing out the worst of Twitter — the company, the platform and its users. He’s using his manipulation skills and your platform to bully others and to incite supporters to harass people — both on Twitter and in real life.”