Twitter on Friday permanently suspended President Donald Trump’s account because of “the risk of further incitement of violence.”
The rare move follows a temporary lock on Trump’s account, which had more than 88 million followers, on Wednesday for three tweets the social network said violated its rules against interfering in elections and civic processes. Trump was required to delete the three tweets to unlock his account and started tweeting on Thursday. Twitter’s action comes after a mob stormed the US Capitol, temporarily halting the certification of Joe Biden as the next US president and leaving five people dead.
On Friday, Twitter said two of Trump’s tweets had violated its rules against glorifying violence, prompting the company to ban him from the platform. “In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action,” the company said in a tweet.
Twitter has been reluctant to pull down Trump’s account in the past because of public interest. But the company faced more pressure, including from civil rights groups and public figures such as former first lady Michelle Obama, to permanently suspend Trump’s account after violence incited by the president’s baseless claims of voter fraud broke out on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. The Washington Post reported some of the criticism came from Twitter’s own employees who wrote a letter to CEO Jack Dorsey and other company executives asking for an investigation into the actions that led to the social network’s role in the Capitol Hill riot.
Calls for Twitter to ban Trump have been going on for years. Critics say the president has violated the social network’s rules in the past but the company has either left up the tweets, labeled them or hid them being a public interest notice. In 2017, for example, Trump tweeted what appeared to be a threat against. Although Twitter has rules against making violent threats, it also allowed Trump’s tweet to stay up because of newsworthiness. Since Jan. 6, Twitter has labeled five of Trump’s tweets because they contained baseless claims of voter fraud.
In a blog post, Twitter explained why two of Trump’s tweets posted on Friday violated its rules against glorification of violence. In one of the tweets, Trump said he will not be attending Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. In the other tweet, Trump said his supporters who he called “American Patriots” will “have a giant long voice into the future” and “will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
Twitter said the company considered the context of the broader events that happened in the US, including Wednesday’s riot, and the possibility Trump’s tweets could foment violence. The company said it decided the two tweets “were highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.” Trump’s tweet stating he won’t attend the inauguration, for example, could encourage people looking to commit violent acts because they know he won’t be there. Trump’s use of the word “American Patriots” was being interpreted as support for people who stormed the Capitol.
“We made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules and cannot use Twitter to incite violence. We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement,” Twitter said in a tweet.
Twitter said if Trump creates another account to evade the ban, it will also be subject to suspension. The company could limit the use of the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse Twitter accounts, but since they will be transferred to a new administration they won’t be suspended unless the company finds it is necessary to prevent real-world harm.
The company’s actions have already reignited tensions between Twitter and conservatives who are already flocking to alternative platforms such as Parler and Gab with fewer rules. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Jason Miller, an adviser to Trump, called Twitter’s move “disgusting” in a tweet. “If you don’t think they’re coming for you next, you’re wrong,” Miller tweeted. Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. said in a tweet Twitter’s move was “absolute insanity.” “Free-speech no longer exists in America. It died with big tech and what’s left is only there for a chosen few,” Trump Jr. tweeted.
A link to Trump’s account now says it’s suspended. Trump’s Facebook account has already been locked indefinitely. Google-owned YouTube pulled down one of Trump’s videos but hasn’t locked his account. Facebook and YouTube didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Twitter’s unprecedented move puts more pressure on other social networks to ban the president from the platform. Civil rights groups quickly praised the action, but urged other companies to do the same.
On Friday, the Stop Hate for Profit coalition urged Facebook, Twitter, Google parent company Alphabet and other social media platforms to permanently ban Trump. The group is made up of civil rights and advocacy groups including the Anti-Defamation League and Color of Change.
“A fitting end to a legacy of spewing hate and vitriol. President Trump incited the violent riots at the Capitol using social media & paid the price,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a tweet.
Other groups such as Muslim Advocates urged Facebook and Google-owned YouTube to take the same action against Trump.
“It is long past time for these companies to take the steps necessary to address pervasive hate and disinformation on their platforms,” said Muslim Advocates Media Relations Officer Eric Naing.