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Twitter Incapable of Removing Trump Tweets

image credit: The Boston Globe

By Chand Bellur

May 26, 2020 at 5:02 p.m. PT

  • President Donald J. Trump recently Tweeted about a decade’s old conspiracy theory involving Joe Scarborough and the death of one of his aids.
  • The husband of the deceased subject, Timothy Klausutis, appealed to Twitter to remove the Tweet.
  • Twitter responded that they do not have the features and policies in place to handle such incidents. 

Trump Tweets Dredge Up Old, Offensive Conspiracy Theory

Over the past few weeks, President Donald J. Trump resurrected a demystified conspiracy theory. Almost two decades ago, aid to then U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough, Lori Kaye Klausutis, died in the office due to an undiagnosed heart condition. Klausutis wounded her head when she fell — the result of a cardiac episode. Conspiracy theories allege that Joe Scarborough murdered the woman, indicating the wound was the result of an assault.

The conspiracy theory unraveled years ago, due to concrete medical evidence. Lori’s husband, Timothy Klausutis, wants to put this fiction to rest. 

Klausutis pled his case in a letter to Twitter, claiming that Trump’s Tweets violate their terms of service and community guidelines. He makes the point that many users have had messages and accounts deleted for lesser violations:

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“The President’s tweet that suggests that Lori was murdered — without evidence (and contrary to the official autopsy) — is a violation of Twitter’s community rules and terms of service. An ordinary user like me would be banished from the platform for such a tweet but I am only asking that these tweets be removed.”

Twitter Cannot Remove Trump’s Conspiracy Theory Tweets

Twitter responded to Dr. Timothy Klausutis’s elegant and passionate appeal with a brief tweet. The company, with a market cap of nearly $27 Billion, claims that it doesn’t have the features and policies in place to remove Trump’s tweets. Founded in 2006, Twitter is now over 14 years old, yet allegedly cannot delete an offensive message, let alone delete the account:

“We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family. We’ve been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly.”

Twitter’s statement may confound some, given the fact that they routinely delete offensive messages and offending accounts. Of course, with 80 million Twitter followers, Trump is a valuable commodity. A different set of rules apply.

Twitter Won’t Kill the Golden Goose

What would Twitter do without Donald Trump? Much like 24-hour news channels need to ruminate and obsess over Trump, Twitter relies on the 45th President of the United States for revenues. A grieving widower’s memory of his long-lost wife isn’t profitable. Trump’s offensive tweets are enjoyed by his base and vilified by others. In either regard, they’re lucrative for Twitter.

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Their biggest concern would be Trump leaving the platform entirely. If Twitter deleted one of Trump’s tweets or made any attempt at moderation, his volatile behavior would likely see him quit the platform altogether. With him go his 80 million followers.

Trump can destroy Twitter, and they know that. The rational course is to allow Trump to do whatever he desires because it’s lucrative. Twitter just recently started turning over a meager profit. Although moderating Trump may not be an option, their terse response to Klausutis is unsettling to the uninitiated. 

Twitter Doesn’t Follow Silicon Valley Values

Although tech corporations often have a progressive sheen, corporations like Twitter, Uber, and others follow a different lead. Once you get past their leadership’s hipster looks, they function like the most wily U.S.-based multinational corporations. Whereas most corporations are amoral, Twitter and others are immoral.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey famously opposed Proposition C, aimed at solving San Francisco’s homeless crisis. Tech corporations and their highly paid workers have contributed significantly to the homeless problem. A few tech CEOs, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, actively thwart helpful legislation.

Not all CEOs are horrible. San Francisco native Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, donated his own money to support Proposition C. The legislation passed by an overwhelming majority, indicating Twitter’s inability to read the room. San Franciscans are progressive. Dorsey isn’t from the Bay Area and doesn’t hold progressive values.

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Actions like opposing homeless aid underscore the moral bankruptcy of tech corporations like Twitter. Their CEO may fool people with progressive words and hipster looks, but the corporation only cares about profits, to a harmful extent. Much like they won’t clean up the homeless problem they created, they likewise refuse to clean up Trump’s excretions.

Twitter’s Multi-Billion Dollar Technological Mediocrity

Social media is not a masterpiece of technology. At its core, social media is about sharing information between friends and colleagues.

Developing apps that connect people and allow them to communicate is trivial. Making them scale is a bit more difficult; however, more complex platforms can scale as well as Twitter or Instagram. Social media is the low hanging fruit of technology.

Twitter, based on Ruby on Rails, is one of the simplest platforms on the planet. While you’d find better engineers working on fast food ordering systems, Twitter developers have implemented features to delete both messages and accounts. We know this because it happens all of the time.

Twitter’s response to Klausutis seems like sociopathy with a self-deprecating twist. They shift blame onto themselves, seemingly falling on the sword. However, the magnanimous action rings hollow; as everyone knows, they can delete both tweets and accounts. This is a case of con artists coming together, to keep their cooperative grift alive. These are purveyors of big lies who instinctively latch on to every opportunity, regardless of collateral damage.

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