On Tuesday, April 23, 2019, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey met with President Donald Trump. The meeting, according to Twitter, was about "protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections and efforts underway to respond to the opioid crisis."
I fully support Twitter's mission to increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation; I also feel that this comes, ironically, at a peculiar moment in American history.
President Donald Trump and other members of his administration, including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have dismissed the findings of the Mueller Report and their findings on Russian interference in the last election. The Mueller Report states, "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a sweeping and systematic fashion."
President Trump would rather regulate and punish corporations like Twitter for removing policy-violating content and users than acknowledging the fact that our election was tampered by a foreign adversary in 2016. President Trump raised concerns about his dwindling Twitter following due to the removal of spam accounts, defining it as "shadow banning", which Twitter has denied. President Trump accuses Twitter of playing political games—whatever that is supposed to mean.
However, the larger issue lies beyond President Trump's dwindling following count. Jack Dorsey explains the problem at hand, "We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers. We aren't proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough."
Much of this abuse, harassment, and manipulation came about as a result of a Russian agency known as the Internet Research Agency, LLC (IRA). The purpose of the IRA was to target U.S. audiences with the goal of creating political discord. The Mueller Report states, "In January 2018, Twitter announced that it had identified 3,814 IRA-controlled Twitter accounts and notified approximately 1 .4 million people Twitter believed may have been in contact with an IRA-controlled account."
Thankfully, Twitter is taking this matter into its hands and addressing this monumental issue. However, I would like to see our President address these issues as the Head of State, and not as a social media influencer. If President Trump and his administration brush off Russian interference as "a few Facebook ads," the doorway to free and fair elections will slam shut and remain that way through the 2020 elections.
I agree with Twitter's CEO, Jack Dorsey: we do need to foster open conversation, but we also need to protect our elections, and our democracy, from nefarious foreign intervention.