Has Twitter Told A Terrible Lie?

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Let’s start by acknowledging that Twitter, as a private company, is free to bounce people and remove their accounts at will. We know that because they were doing it before they started their purge of Trump supporters this week, and have ramped it up significantly because they have no fear they’ll face any negative consequences for doing so.

But as a business matter, they might have a more tangled web to unravel. Their shares dropped more than 4% following their cynical decision to remove speech they unilaterally decided to squelch, insisting it was preordained as potentially leading to incitement of violence. Because Jack Dorsey has a crystal ball somewhere hidden in his beard, I guess.

Shares of Twitter were down nearly 4% in after-hours trading Friday night following the platform’s permanent ban of President Trump’s account “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

Shares were trading at $49.54 as of 8 p.m., down 3.77% from the closing price of $51.48 Friday afternoon. Twitter the ban at 6:21 p.m.

There’s a decent argument to be made that Jack and his company have misled their shareholders. The general public has certainly been misled by this 2015 example of liberal pie-in-the-sky rhetoric.

I’m no lawyer, so if I’m off base here, by all means, correct me in the comments. I welcome it. But because users don’t pay anything to use Twitter, their status as consumers who may have been defrauded as to the promises made by the company seems a hard case to make. But the shareholders…well that could be different. A twitter user shared the Securities and Exchange Commission prospectus the company filed in 2013 and, while I can’t confirm if it’s changed since then, it’s certainly describing a different company than the one we’ve seen in the last week.

Shareholders don’t care about politics in a general sense. They invest for the money. And they’re big losers following Twitter’s decision to ban the president and purge those connected to him and his supporters. And Twitter’s decision doesn’t seem to jibe with what the company told the SEC about its business model back in 2013.

Twitter of course will continue justifying its decision by saying all those people they purged recently were in violation of the company’s terms of service and were potential violence inciters through a mere connection to Trump in any manner, even simply ideologically.

But if each individual user were to challenge them on their proof of that, would Twitter be able to provide it?

As mentioned at the top, the censorship issue isn’t totally about speech. Twitter is a private company and can police to their little bird heart’s delight. But because of Section 230 protections, it’s nearly impossible to sue them. Some argue that if the liability protection didn’t exist, they would be even more censorious because they would be held liable for user comments and would remove anything that could get them into legal trouble. But aren’t they already behaving as if they are?

Just as a palate cleanser, this video came (ironically) through my Twitter feed today. If Delta kicked Trump supporters off a flight for no reason other than they were vocal Trump supporters — and weren’t disruptive or dangerous in any way, which isn’t clear from this video — the airline can be sued for discrimination, I would think

Twitter, on the other hand, cannot.