As Twitter on Thursday continued to slap warning labels on "misleading" tweets from President Donald Trump, two national democracy watchdog groups in the U.S. called on the social media giant to immediately suspend the president's account for "repeated violations" of its own rules.
"The president's actions are dangerous and irresponsible and Twitter has an obligation to be a responsible corporate citizen and safeguard our democracy."
—Karen Hobert Flynn, Common CauseIn a joint letter (pdf) to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Common Cause and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law express appreciation for the social media company's "removing and flagging" of certain posts "that could potentially harm voters," but say that "in certain instances, these remedial steps do not go far enough."
Since Election Day, Twitter has hidden several of the president's posts containing lies about the results and voter fraud behind the message: "Some or all of the content shared in this tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process." Users can still opt to "view" the tweets.
In their letter, the two groups urge Dorsey to temporarily suspend the personal account from which the president generally tweets—@realDonaldTrump—noting that the company has taken such action in response to violations by other public figures.
Can Twitter just man up and suspend @realDonaldTrump already?
He’s spreading lies, propaganda, and inciting violence. pic.twitter.com/2Tpz30QaOx
— David Leavitt (@David_Leavitt) November 5, 2020
"We are not aware of any exceptions for current elected officials who, by virtue of their position, pose an even greater threat to the public when allowed to repeatedly violate your policies with impunity," the letter says. "President Trump's repeated use of Twitter's service to amplify false claims regarding our elections stand in deliberate violation of the platform's Civic Integrity Policy."
The letter cites lines from the policy and provides examples of Trump appearing to violate it over the past day before expressing concern that "President Trump's continued use of Twitter's platform to spread disinformation may incite the public in ways that could prove harmful to public safety, if it has not done so already."
"We fear that, in the absence of action by Twitter, the president may be successful in his goal of delegitimizing the integrity of our democratic processes for many, and not just Twitter users but other voters and members of the public, sowing uncertainty about the voting and elections process, and potentially inciting violence against civil servants or others," the letter adds.
While recognizing that Twitter must work to "balance the newsworthiness of a public figure's use of the platform, and the potential threats to democracy and public safety from its unfettered use," the groups conclude that "particularly in the next 24-48 hours, the balance must be weighted towards the free, fair, and transparent operation of our civic processes."
NEW: @KristenClarkeJD & I are calling on @Twitter/@jack to suspend @realDonaldTrump's account. Trump has repeatedly violated Twitter's Civic Integrity Policy and has spread disinformation about the vote counting process.https://t.co/wwB9dElFGi pic.twitter.com/uZ2R0GHr3R
— Karen Hobert Flynn (@KHobertFlynn) November 5, 2020
The letter is signed by Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn and Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Clarke said in a statement Thursday that "Twitter has a duty to ensure that its platform is not used to attack the foundations of our democracy."
Hobert Flynn concurred, explaining that "we are a democracy and democracies count all the votes. But the president is freely using his Twitter account in an attempt to deliberately undermine the nation's vote count and undercut Americans' faith in our elections."
"We are urging Twitter to take immediate action to enforce its own policies and curb President Trump's Twitter campaign to spread disinformation and sow unrest amongst his followers," she added. "The president's actions are dangerous and irresponsible and Twitter has an obligation to be a responsible corporate citizen and safeguard our democracy."
As of press time, ballots were still being counted in several states, but the New York Times projected that Trump had secured only 214 electoral votes compared with Democratic nominee Joe Biden's 253. Biden currently leads in Arizona and Nevada—which, with 11 and six electoral votes each, would be enough for the former vice president to win the race.