Dear Twitter, don't let Trump start a war

Trump's Twitter habit is hard to break
Trump's Twitter habit is hard to break


    Trump's Twitter habit is hard to break


Trump's Twitter habit is hard to break 06:20

Story highlights

  • John MacIntosh says Twitter needs to set up a mechanism that would review President Trump's tweets before they're posted
  • If the "shot heard round the world" signaled the start of the Revolutionary War, a "tweet heard round the world" could start something far worse.

John MacIntosh was a partner at a leading global private equity firm, where he worked from 1994 to 2006 in New York, Tokyo and London. He now runs a nonprofit in New York. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)Dear Mr. Jack Dorsey,

I apologize for appealing to you directly, but you're the co-inventor of Twitter and the country needs your help. I'm sure you're already busy enough what with being the CEO of both Twitter and Square and all. And I recognize that you've very recently taken some positive steps to combat hateful and abusive content.
    But like it or not, you must take on a new, more important job: reducing the existential threat posed by the new Twitter-armed President.
    It's bad enough that your invention influenced the election and is now suppressing discussion and debate by allowing the administration to bypass a press which, as Steve Bannon recognizes, is the only real opposition. But far worse is that in the hands of the new President, Twitter has mutated from a 140-character toy of mass distraction into a potentially lethal weapon of mass destruction that poses a clear and present danger to us all.
    John MacIntosh
    As I see it, there are many tolerable, though disappointing, reasons why our imperfect civilization might meet an untimely end; some, like an asteroid or pandemic, are largely beyond our control while others like climate catastrophe, or a nanotechnology/bioengineering/high-energy physics mishap, are self-inflicted. But annihilation by tweet is not one of them.
    In fact, it would be an absurd way to go. If the "shot heard round the world" signaled the start of the Revolutionary War; a "tweet heard round the world" could start something far bloodier. And even Trump's supporters must privately acknowledge that a Trump-launched "nuclear tweet" is a very real possibility.
    But to be clear, it's not because Trump is rash that he shouldn't have access to the full, unbridled power of Twitter free from any checks and balances. Nobody with his type of power should.
    Who among us has the self-control to avoid sending the occasional tweet we regret? Who might not wreak havoc if we had legions of zealous followers, a handful of nervous (and nuclear) foreign powers, and hundreds of loyal apparatchiks all hanging on our every tweet?
    So what can you do? The easiest thing would be to simply deactivate his accounts for repeatedly breaking your rules. Rules which clearly state that tweets cannot be used to encourage illegal activities, make or promote threats of violence, harass others or give out private information.
    And since Twitter is a not a public utility, nothing prevents you from pulling the presidential plug. There is no "Freedom of Tweet" in the First Amendment. There is no "Right to Send Tweets" in the Second.
    But disconnecting the President would expose you to unbearable personal and political animus from the administration, as well as from an irate public that would no longer able to hear the facts -- alternative or otherwise -- directly from the commander-in-Tweet.
    And they should be allowed to hear from him directly other than in those (hopefully) rare situations where a would-be Tweet might cause a war, incite a riot, encourage law breaking, or otherwise create pandemonium. (Cutting the cord would also be bad for business and, as a publicly-traded company, Twitter must carefully balance the financial interests of its shareholders against humanity's more general interest in survival.)
    So let me suggest an alternative: the Bipartisan Commission on Presidential Tweets.
    Here's how it might work:
    1. Twitter inserts a delay into all Trump's tweets just like broadcasters do for live television. During the delay, a panel of three commissioners -- one Democrat, one Republican and one independent, determine whether or not it would be safe to release the tweet. (To staff this on a 24/7 basis would require at least 12 people working four shifts of three.)
    2. Any commissioner could block any tweet or request additional proof that it is actually the President tweeting and not some hacker, terrorist or prankster who has hijacked his accounts.
    3. If a Tweet were blocked, Trump would get an explanation of why ("The Tweet is illegal/could be interpreted as a declaration of war/ directly violates the Constitution, etc.")
    4. Trump could resubmit a blocked-Tweet after a five-minute "cooling off" period during which his strongest feelings will generally have passed. But if he still wants to "Nuke the #$@%*!" or "Round up all the #$@%*!" he can submit the tweet for reconsideration.
    5. A resubmitted tweet could only be blocked with the unanimous agreement of all three commissioners.
    6. The identity of the commissioners on any given shift would be kept secret. There would be no record of the voting.
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    7. The commission would be immunized from the political process by being an independent 501c3 funded equally by concerned citizens on the left (George Soros?) and the right (The Kochs?).
    Will this work? Who knows. But you can't sit idly by while every morning and night, alone in the White House, watching TV with your invention in his hand, the President is just one ill-advised tweet away from sending us into the abyss. (Things could be worse; at least he's a teetotaler).
    In the face of this existential threat, Trump's supporters and opponents must come together no matter how vehemently we disagree while living. You created the genie; now help put it back in the bottle.