Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Activists stage anti-Trump die-in at Twitter


Protesters lay on the ground during a die-in outside Twitter's San Francisco headquarters Saturday, January 7. Photo: David-Elijah Nahmod
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Around 30 activists staged a die-in outside of Twitter's Market Street headquarters Saturday, January 7 to ask the social media company to ban the Twitter account of President-elect Donald Trump.

At issue is Trump's tweeting personal insults at numerous public figures and questioning national security officials and various policies. Most recently Trump called acclaimed actress Meryl Streep "over-rated" after she called out his bullying and mocking a disabled reporter in a riveting acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes Sunday night.

Twitter has been Trump's main form of communication both during his presidential campaign and the transition period.

Most concerning to the protesters are Trump's tweets calling for escalation of nuclear weapons and his racist tweets against Muslims and Mexicans. On December 7, 2016, Trump tweeted out "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."

On December 22, 2016, Trump Tweeted: "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

"Because allowing him to spew ignorance may lead to the next world war, Twitter must ban @realDonaldTrump," said Alan Marling, who organized the die-in, referring to Trump's Twitter account. "And, if he misuses the @POTUS account in the same ways, they must suspend it for four years."

Protesters cheered in agreement as Marling spoke, some holding up placards with screen shots of Trump's tweets.

Marling pointed to a November 22 posting on Twitter's official blog in which the company said it would not allow law enforcement agencies to use Twitter for surveillance purposes. "Recent reports about Twitter data being used for surveillance have caused us great concern," wrote Twitter's Chris Moody. "As a company, our commitment to social justice is core to our mission and well established. And our policies in this area are long-standing. Using Twitter's Public APIs or data products to track or profile protesters and activists is absolutely unacceptable and prohibited." (He was referring to techniques that allow users to search Twitter.)

Moody added that "appropriate action" would be taken against those who violate the policy, which could include suspension and termination of accounts.

Protesters praised the social media service, but warned people could be endangered by Trump's use of it.

"Twitter has been, and in some ways still is, a voice of the people," said Marling. "I only worry that it is also putting those same people in danger by not banning @realDonaldTrump."

Protesters lay on the ground as though dead for about two minutes in order to demonstrate the loss of life from nuclear weapons.

After rising, Marlin led the protesters in a series of chants: "Honor your policies, ban Donald Trump," was one. "Stop World War, Ban Donald Trump," was another. 

"This is a moment when everything we do matters," protester Xochitl Johnson, 49, told the Bay Area Reporter. "If we come together in the millions we can stop this."

Johnson added that in spite of family and work obligations she intends to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in Inauguration Day protests. 

"Twitter has to decide if it is a social media company for the people or for fascists to suppress the people," said Marling. "Twitter is a private company, and Trump's tweets are not free speech. Twitter profits off them, at least in the short term."

Twitter, which went public in 2013, has seen its stock price plummet. On Tuesday the stock closed at $17.37. The company has also been in the midst of an executive shake-up, with the departure of several top employees.

At press time, Trump was continuing to Tweet regularly. Twitter did not respond to the B.A.R.'s request for a comment.


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