Former President Donald Trump's tweets sparked the violent incidents at the US Capitol on January 6, a former Twitter employee who worked on the platform's content control policies told congressional investigators.
The employee, whose identity remains anonymous, specifically pointed to a Dec. 19 tweet from Donald Trump asking his supporters to join him in a “protest” of the 2020 election results. “Be there. It's going to be wild," the tweet said. According to the official, that message was seen by many on Twitter as directly responsible for the ensuing violence, which resulted in five deaths and 700 arrests.
This was also confirmed by the testimony of Dr. Donell Harvin, the head of Homeland Security in Washington, DC. "We received intelligence from OSINT that some very violent individuals were organizing to come to DC," Harvin said in a taped statement.
The Twitter employee explained that the platform had been wary of the former president's presence on the site as far back as September 2020, when Trump urged members of the violent far-right extremist group, Proud Boys, to "'stand by him.'
"My concern was that the former president, seemingly for the first time, was speaking directly to extremist organizations and giving them instructions," the official said. "We had never seen this kind of direct communication before, and that worried me."
Despite his concerns, the official said Twitter declined to deny Trump access. "If former President Donald Trump were any other Twitter user, he would have been permanently suspended a long time ago," the official told investigators.
Asked to explain this approach, the official described a symbiotic relationship between the platform and President Donald Trump. "I think Twitter was happy knowing it was the former president's favorite and most used service."
Trump was banned from Twitter two days after the Capitol invasion, a decision that remains contested and controversial. In a political statement which announces the ban, Twitter said the action was necessary "due to the risk of further inciting violence."
In response to Tuesday's filings, Twitter spokesperson Trenton Kennedy told The Verge:
“On January 6, we leveraged the systems we had built before the election to respond to the unprecedented attack in real time. We are committed to doing the same to counter violent extremism in the US and globally.”