WASHINGTON (AP/KDVR) — Twitter banned President Donald Trump’s account Friday, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence” following the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Twitter has long given Trump and other world leaders broad exemptions from its rules against personal attacks, hate speech and other behaviors. But in a detailed explanation posted on its blog Friday, the company said recent Trump tweets amounted to glorification of violence when read in the context of the Capitol riot and plans circulating online for future armed protests around the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
The social platform has been under growing pressure to take further action against Trump following the Wednesday violence. On Wednesday, Facebook suspended Trump’s account through Jan. 20 and possibly indefinitely. Twitter merely suspended Trump’s account for 12 hours after he posted a video that repeated false claims about election fraud and praised the rioters who stormed the Capitol.
Trump’s Twitter persona has long functioned as a mix of policy announcements — often out of the blue; complaints about the media; disparagement of women, minorities and his perceived enemies; and praise for his supporters, replete with exclamation marks, all-caps, and one-word declarations such as “Sad!”
He has fired numerous officials on Twitter and his posts, like his speeches at rallies, are a torrent of misinformation.
Casey Fiesler is an Assistant Professor of Information Science at CU Boulder, and says it was likely a difficult decision for Twitter.
President Trump has been one of the platform’s most popular, and most polarizing figures since taking office.
“I do not envy the position that these platforms are in,” she says.
Fiesler says it’s understandable some would be concerned with the censorship, but says it’s not a violation of the First Amendment, as some have claimed.
“The First Amendment protects us from the suppression of our speech by the government,” she says. “Even if people don’t agree with certain policies on platforms, it’s not a First Amendment violation to suppress someone’s speech for whatever reason.”
Since Friday, “Goodbye Twitter” has been a frequent post on the social media site, with some leaving for apps like Parler, where comments are less regulated.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The official account for the President of the United States, @potus, remains live.
In the Trump tweets cited by Twitter, Trump stated that he will not be attending the inauguration and referred to his supporters as “American Patriots,” saying they will have “a GIANT VOICE long into the future.” Twitter said these statements “are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so.”
Twitter said its policy enables world leaders to speak to the public, but that these accounts “are not above our rules entirely” and can’t use Twitter to incite violence. Trump had roughly 89 million followers. Twitter shares fell roughly 3% in after-hours trading.
Jonathan Greenblatt, who heads the Anti-Defamation League, said Friday that banning Trump was an “excellent step” and “a fitting end to a legacy of spewing hate and vitriol.” The ADL was part of a coalition of civil rights and advocacy groups on Friday calling for Twitter to ban Trump’s account.
On Friday, Twitter also permanently banned two Trump loyalists — former national security adviser Michael Flynn and attorney Sidney Powell — as part of a broader purge of accounts promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory. Twitter said it will take action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm.
“Given the renewed potential for violence surrounding this type of behavior in the coming days, we will permanently suspend accounts that are solely dedicated to sharing QAnon content,” Twitter said in an emailed statement. The company also said Trump attorney Lin Wood was permanently suspended Tuesday for violating its rules, but provided no additional details.
Dozens of QAnon social media accounts were hyping up Trump’s Jan. 6 rally in the heart of Washington, expressing hope that it could lead to the overturn of the election results.