Trump received special treatment from Twitter despite internal fears he was inciting violence, a former employee tells January 6 committee

Trump received special treatment from Twitter despite internal fears he was inciting violence, a former employee tells January 6 committee
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  • A former Twitter employee said Donald Trump would have been suspended earlier if he were another user.

  • The employee, in testimony to the January 6 committee, said there were fears Trump was inciting violence.

  • "It felt as if a mob was being organized and they were gathering together their weaponry," they testified.

Former President Donald Trump enjoyed special treatment from Twitter, remaining on the platform even after employees at the social network feared he was inciting right-wing extremists – and long after others would have been removed — according to testimony from a former employee aired Tuesday at a hearing of the congressional committee investigating January 6.

"I believe that Twitter relished in the knowledge that they were also the favorite and most used service of the former president and enjoyed having that sort of power within the social media ecosystem," the former Twitter employee told investigators.

The employee, whose identity was kept secret, was introduced by Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, as having served on Twitter's team responsible for content moderation from 2020 to 2021.

Trump was ultimately suspended from the social network on January 8, 2021, with the company citing the "risk of further incitement of violence."

But anyone else would have been suspended long before encouraging a mob of supporters to descend on the US Capitol, according to the employee.

"If former President Donald Trump were any other user on Twitter, he would have been permanently suspended a very long time ago," they said.

A spokesperson for Twitter told Insider the company has had an "ongoing, productive engagement" with the January 6 committee.

"We are clear-eyed about our role in the broader information ecosystem in regards to the January 6th attack on the US Capitol," the spokesperson said, "and while we continue to examine how we can improve moving forward, the fact remains that we took unprecedented steps and invested significant resources to prepare for and respond to the threats that emerged during the 2020 US election."

Trump: January 6 'will be wild'

Long before January 6, the former employee said, people at Twitter were alarmed by its users' response to Trump's comments, in particular, his call in a September 2020 debate for the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by" — a remark that tripled the membership of the far-right extremist group, according to one of its leaders.

"My concern was that the former president, for seemingly the first time, was speaking directly to extremist organizations and giving them directives," the Twitter employee said. On the social network, users responded as if it were a call to arms.

"It felt as if a mob was being organized and they were gathering together their weaponry and their logic and their reasoning behind why they were prepared to fight," the employee said.

Then came the tweet Trump sent in December 2020, claiming it was "impossible" for him to have lost the election. "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th," he wrote. "Be there, will be wild!"

This post, according to Rep. Raskin, "electrified and galvanized" Trump's extremist supporters.

According to the former Twitter insider, the responses on the social network alone were enough to suggest there was a potential for violence.

"After this tweet on December 19th, again it became clear not only were these individuals ready and willing," the former employee testified, "but the leader of their cause was asking them to join him in this cause and in fighting for this cause in DC on January 6th."

The night before the insurrection, the employee said they could barely sleep, fearing imminent violence. "I was on pins and needles because, again, for months, I had been begging and anticipating and attempting to raise the reality that if we made no intervention into what I saw occurring, people were going to die," they said. "And on January 5th I realized no intervention was coming."

The January 6 committee on Tuesday shared several examples of posts from users who did not interpret Trump's tweet as inviting them to a strictly peaceful protest.

"It 'will be wild' means we need volunteers for the firing squad," one person wrote.

More than a hundred police officers were injured the day of the attack on the US Capitol, as did one rioter who was shot trying to enter the halls of Congress. Five officers who served that day later died.

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Read the original article on Business Insider