The US leader who became famous for his tweeting was permanently banned from the platform Friday, with Twitter citing the “risk of further incitement of violence.”
The social platform had been under growing pressure to take further action against Trump following Wednesday’s deadly insurrection at the US Capitol. Twitter initially 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.
The company said: “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
Trump in response accused Twitter of conspiring with his political enemies “to silence me.”
In a series of tweets from the official @POTUS account, which remained active, Trump said the company “has gone further and further in banning free speech, and tonight, Twitter employees have coordinated with the Democrats and the Radical Left in removing my account from their platform, to silence me — and YOU, the 75,000,000 great patriots who voted for me.”
The tweets were swiftly removed by Twitter.
“Using another account to try to evade a suspension is against our rules,” Twitter told AFP. “We have taken steps to enforce this with regard to recent Tweets from the @POTUS account.”
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) January 9, 2021
Twitter’s move deprives Trump of a potent tool he has used to communicate directly with the American people for more than a decade. He has used Twitter to announce policy changes, challenge opponents, insult enemies, praise his allies (and himself), and spread misinformation.
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 lengthy 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.
In those tweets, 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 it had “made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action.” It said Trump’s latest 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 it also factored in that plans for more armed protests have been proliferating on and off the service, including a proposed second attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17.
Trump’s tweeted statement about not attending the Inauguration has been received by some supporters as his continued rejection of the election’s legitimacy and a sign that the event would be a “safe target” since he won’t be there, according to Twitter.
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.
Facebook and Instagram have also barred Trump from posting, though so far only temporarily, saying the ban will last at least until the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Twitter had long grappled with how to handle its most prominent — and divisive — user.
For years, since long before he was president, Trump used Twitter as a personal megaphone to build his personal brand, appeal to his supporters and attack his rivals of the moment. In the process, regardless of the facts at hand, he often created his own version of reality — from birtherism to climate-change denial to exaggerations about voter fraud.
Last May the platform began attaching warnings to some of his tweets, while placing various limitations on others to prevent the spread of false claims. Facebook has followed suit.
Since the US election in November Trump has repeatedly harnessed the power of social media to spread falsehoods about election integrity and the results of the presidential race.
Also Friday, Twitter 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.
The company says that when it determines a group or campaign is engaged in “coordinated harmful activity,” it may suspend accounts that it finds primarily encourages that behavior.
Social media companies have been under intensified pressure to crack down on hate speech since a violent mob egged on by Trump stormed the Capitol. 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.
On Friday, the advocacy coalition Stop Hate for Profit launched a campaign to pressure the major platforms, including YouTube owner Google, to kick Trump off their services for good. The organization, which includes the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Free Press and Color of Change, said it will call for an advertiser boycott if the platforms don’t take action by Jan. 20, the date of Biden’s inauguration.
Other tech companies also acted against Trump’s accounts, citing threats of violence. Snapchat locked Trump’s account “indefinitely.” Twitch, the live-streaming site owned by Amazon and used by Trump’s campaign to stream speeches, disabled Trump’s account until he leaves office. E-commerce company Shopify shut down two online Trump memorabilia stores.
YouTube announced more general changes that will penalize accounts spreading misinformation about voter fraud in the 2020 election, with repeat offenders facing permanent removal. Reddit on Friday banned a forum for Trump supporters, called “donaldtrump.”