This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Exiled Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has accused Twitter of “an unacceptable act of censorship” in a thread arguing against that powerhouse private social network’s permanent ban on outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump after violence in Washington this week.
The 44-year-old Kremlin foe warned in the 11-point thread that “this precedent will be exploited by enemies of freedom of speech around the world.”
Navalny, who is in Germany after being flown there for emergency medical care from a poisoning in Russia in August, said that during his four-year term Trump “has been writing and saying very irresponsible things…[a]nd paid for it by not getting re-elected for a second term.”
Critics say Trump has often used the platform to spread misinformation, hate, and incite violence, including accusations that the November election was “stolen.”
Public pressure mounted on social platforms to cut off Trump’s access after deadly mob violence by Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to interrupt Congress’s certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory in November.
Trump, who had personally addressed the crowd in the hours before the Capitol attack, had also egged followers on via social media.
Facebook later banned Trump from its Facebook and Instagram platforms through at least the end of his presidency later this month.
Then Twitter on January 8 cited “the risk of further incitement of violence” to impose a “permanent suspension” of his @realDonaldTrump account, which had more than 88 million followers.
The company cited a “close review” of recent Trump tweets and cited its “glorification of violence policy” along with “the context of horrific events this week” and “additional violations” since the Capitol was stormed.
Navalny has used Twitter, YouTube, and other social networks to great effect to skirt the Kremlin’s stranglehold on traditional media during years of anti-corruption campaigns and bids to oppose Vladimir Putin’s leadership and his perceived abuses.
Navalny is thought to have been poisoned in August with a toxin from the Russian-made Novichok group of Soviet-era nerve agents.
Russian authorities have rejected Western medical and intelligence information pointing to official involvement in Navalny’s poisoning, while also resisting opening their own investigation.
Navalny dismissed the argument that Trump was banned for violating Twitter’s rules because “I get death threats here every day for many years, and Twitter doesn’t ban anyone (not that I ask for it).”
He suggested that Twitter “create some sort of a committee that can make…decisions” on such bans, along with a process for appeal.
Many Trump supporters and some pro-Trump celebrities have publicly criticized the ban as politically motivated.
Trump reportedly still has access to the official @WhiteHouse and @POTUS accounts, but will lose this when his presidential term ends on January 20.
Twitter has a “public interest framework” that is aimed at curbing online abuses while it “enables people to be informed and to engage their leaders directly.”
The company suggested in the Trump context that it feared its platform might be used to incite further violence ahead of Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
“Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021,” it said.
On January 8, Google suspended Parler from its app store over continued postings that seek “to incite ongoing violence in the U.S.”
Parler, a relatively new platform that says it protects free speech and doesn’t censor, has become increasingly popular among the president’s supporters and conservatives.