Given the furor that has erupted in the wake of the latest infantile and dangerous tweet from Donald Trump — yesterday’s already infamous “my nuclear button is bigger than your nuclear button” tweet directed at the leader of the unstable and unpredictable nuclear-armed dictatorship of North Korea, I would assert that a Twitter thought experiment is in order.
We’ll draft a figure from history — Adolf Hitler (you remember him, right?) — to complete our tyrant triad along with Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. We’ll be talking about the actual Adolf himself here, so “Godwin’s law” prohibitions against inappropriate Hitler analogies will not apply.
OK, boys and girls, let’s begin the thought experiment.
The Big Question that comes up after so many of Trump’s tweets is why do so many Twitter users posting far less provocative content have their Twitter accounts temporarily or permanently disabled or terminated, while an individual literally threatening nuclear war — about as provocative as you can get — continues to tweet with impunity?
Twitter’s legal and policy teams have a ready answer — they point to clauses in their terms of service that provide exceptions for “newsworthy” tweets. They also exempt public office holders elected through “democratic elections.”
Interestingly, tweets from Donald Trump would seem to conveniently fall into both of these policy buckets. Ironically, so would tweets from Adolf Hitler.
One certainly couldn’t argue that Hitler’s tweets wouldn’t have been newsworthy. And yes, Hitler was democratically elected. While he was appointed chancellor of Germany in January 1933 by President Hindenburg, he was elected to the presidency in a plebiscite vote in 1934 after Hindenburg died.
Bottom line: By Twitter, Inc. standards, anything Hitler might have tweeted would be golden.
Yet we know what’s really going on with these Twitter terms of service standards — it’s all about “engagements” — likes and reshares — and the income to Twitter that results. Twitter is terrified of cutting off those income streams by upsetting large chunks of Twitter users (such as Trump’s base of racist and antisemitic followers).
The fact that Twitter is putting money ahead of ethics and public safety shouldn’t surprise us — they’re on firm historical footing.
During the rise of the Third Reich, entire major firms — like IBM — knowingly provided resources to accelerate National Socialism’s Nazi evils, as did entire countries, like Switzerland.
So the next time that Twitter gets asked about their terms of service in the context of Trump, perhaps they might want to point to Adolf and Friends as an explanatory precedent.
I suspect though that Hitler’s Twitter feed would have looked a lot different than Trump’s. For one thing, Adolf was far more intelligent and mature than Trump overall, and I’ll bet that the lion’s share of Hitler’s Twitter posts would have typically been relatively adult and subtle compared against Trump’s third grade rants (no offense meant to third-graders).
So I doubt very much that we’d have seen tweeted photos of Jews, gypsies, and others being stuffed into boxcars on the way to the death camps, nor images of his victims in the millions piled into ditches or burning in crematoriums.
More likely, we’d have seen carefully worded tweets on political issues and lots of animal photos — Hitler was indeed a dog lover and many shots of Adolf and his dogs still exist today.
It would have been an interesting Twitter feed. I might have followed it myself.
Of course this would have belied the truth of what was actually going on, as the world was well aware — and largely attempted to ignore — as the Reich rose to power and implemented its murderous policies.
By any logical analysis, the decision to remove Trump from Twitter should be far easier for Twitter than it would have been for dealing with @realAdolfHitler (by the way, a Twitter account with that handle has existed since 2009, but has never tweeted to date).
After all, while Hitler was smart enough to be fairly constrained in his public statements when he felt that this served his own purposes, Trump’s continuing Twitter streams of deranged nuclear threats and sociopathic, senile ramblings are front and center on Twitter — and Twitter is making a mint from them.
It has been argued that letting Trump rant on Twitter will be his ultimate downfall — creating all manner of potential legal problems for him in the future. Perhaps so.
However, I draw the line when it comes to threats of nuclear war and the potential deaths of millions or billions of people.
It’s time for Twitter to call a halt to this madness. They are not merely bystanders in this nightmare, they are active participants, enablers, and unethical beneficiaries.
Twitter, it’s time for you to do the right thing and dump Trump.
By doing so, you might even save the world.