Twitter whistleblower reveals Trump’s ‘stand by’ message to Proud Boys prompted talks about stricter rules

·2 min read

Twitter considered stricter moderation policies after Donald Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”, but the company chose not to act, an employee has told the January 6 committee.

Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin said that the committee “interviewed a former Twitter employee who explained the effects that Trump had on the Twitter platform”.

“This employee was on the team responsible for platform and content moderation policies on Twitter throughout 2020 and 2021,” he added. “The employee testified that Twitter considered adopting a stricter content moderation policy after President Trump told the Proud Boys to ‘stand back and standby’ from the lectern at the September 29 presidential debate, but Twitter chose not to act.”

The employee’s voice was “obscured to protect their identity”, Mr Raskin said.

“My concern was that the former president, for seemingly the first time, was speaking directly to extremist organisations and giving them directives,” the employee said, adding that people at Twitter were “worried”.

But the employee said that “Twitter relished in the knowledge that they were also the favourite and most used service of the former president and enjoyed having that sort of power”.

“If former President Donald Trump were any other user on Twitter, he would have been permanently suspended a very long time ago,” the employee told the committee.

As Mr Trump tweeted ahead of the January 6 insurrection, the Twitter employee said that “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”.

“Prior to December 19, again, it was vague, it was non-specific, but it's very clear that individuals were ready, willing and able to take up arms,” the employee said.

“Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Mr Trump tweeted on December 19 2020.

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

“I will also say what shocked me was the responses to these tweets ... a lot of the ‘locked and loaded’, ‘stand back, stand by’ ... tweets were in response to Donald Trump saying things like this. So there would be a response that said, ‘big protest in DC on January 6, be there be wild’ – and someone would respond and say ‘I'm locked and loaded and ready for Civil War Part Two’,” the employee said.

“I very much believe that Donald Trump posting this tweet on December 19 was essentially staking a flag in DC on January 6 for his supporters to come and rally,” the employee added, saying that they were “absolutely” concerned that things may turn violent.