Twitter Permanently Suspends President Trump’s Account Citing “a Risk of Inciting Violence”

Twitter Bans President Trump - The Ringer

Dear Commons Community,

Twitter permanently suspended President Donald Trump’s account yesterday, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.”

The president’s account, with 88 million followers, was initially banned for 12 hours on Wednesday due to “severe violations of our Civic Integrity policy,” after he used the platform to condemn Vice President Mike Pence as his supporters stormed the Capitol.  As reported by NBC News (Ben Collins, Brandy Zadrozny, Kristen Welker Reporting).

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” the company said in a tweet.

Almost immediately, the account that Trump had used for years to convey his every thought, to denounce his enemies and praise his friends, to convey uncountable false statements and official White House announcements, simply disappeared. It was suddenly impossible to see his previous tweets, or even to see his reaction to Twitter’s decision. Instead, his empty account had been marked: “Account suspended.”

Trump’s attempts to tweet from associated accounts also were blocked. At one point, he was tweeting from his campaign account, but that was promptly suspended.

In a blog post, Twitter detailed the reasoning behind the decision.

“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,” Twitter wrote. “Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open.”

“However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules and cannot use Twitter to incite violence,” the post continued. “We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Twitter banned the president’s account after years of public pressure and several attempts to limit the reach of his account in recent days. Hundreds of Twitter employees recently signed a letter urging Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to ban the president for using the platform to incite violence in the wake of the Capitol siege. An employee at Twitter who has been pushing for the company to delete the president’s account this week told NBC News that “leadership took a beating” at a meeting Friday morning with employees, many of whom pleaded with executives to delete his account.

“A lot of us are so happy, and so proud to work for a company that did the right thing,” the employee said.

This was the second time in a week Twitter had taken action against the president’s account. Twitter removed three tweets that promoted conspiracy theories about the election and locked Trump’s account on Wednesday, citing “a risk of violence,” after a violent riot at the Capitol. Trump’s official @POTUS account is still active, but if the company determines he’s using it to evade the ban, it will take action to limit its use, a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement.

About two hours after his ban, Trump did turn to the official @POTUS account, railing against Twitter, Democrats, and “the Radical Left,” in a series of tweets that were quickly deleted. A Twitter spokesperson said, “As we’ve said, using another account to try to evade a suspension is against our rules. We have taken steps to enforce this with regard to recent Tweets from the @POTUS.”

In the blog post, Twitter cited Trump’s two most recent tweets as an explanation for the permanent suspension.

In the first one, Trump wrote: “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”

In the next, he tweeted, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

Taken together, the company determined, they were “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.”

The suspension drew immediate praise from Democratic politicians.

“Thank you @twitter for taking this action,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., tweeted. “We must come together as a country to heal and find a common path forward.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., tweeted: “An overdue step. But it’s important to remember, this is much bigger than one person. It’s about an entire ecosystem that allows misinformation and hate to spread and fester unchecked.”

Republican politicians and Trump loyalists pushed back on the decision.

“Disgusting. Big Tech wants to cancel all 75M @realDonaldTrump supporters,” tweeted Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump’s 2020 campaign.

Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted: “Silencing people, not to mention the President of the US, is what happens in China not our country. #Unbelievable”

Trump was an early adopter of Twitter, joining the platform in 2009. He has long favored Twitter as a means of communicating his policies, opinions and grievances directly to supporters while circumventing the traditional media.

But after his election in 2016, Trump told “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl that as president he would use the platform differently.

“I’m going to do very restrained, if I use it at all, I’m going to do very restrained,” Trump said. “I find it tremendous. It’s a modern form of communication.”

Trump was not restrained, using his account to make ad hominem attacks against political opponents and announce public firings, posts that were widely criticized as unpresidential but allowed by Twitter.

In 2020, as the pandemic raged and the president used his account to spread misinformation about Covid-19 and the coming election, Twitter — under fire from public health experts and lawmakers — began to enforce new policies on Trump’s account.

Twitter first took action against Trump’s account last May, adding a warning label to a pair of tweets that claimed mail-in ballots were fraudulent. The label said the tweet contained “potentially misleading information about voting processes.”

In the months that followed, the company played whack-a-mole, adding labels to tweets for violating nearly all of the company’s rules, including abusive behavior, misinformation, glorifying violence and manipulated media.

On election night, Twitter took the unprecedented step of hiding behind warnings tweets from the president that claimed his votes had “started to magically disappear.” Since then, Twitter has labeled Trump’s tweets disputing the free and fair election — sometimes daily.

Some individuals especially in the news media commented that Twitter’s suspension of Trump borders on infringement of free speech.  However, there is the classic analogy that one cannot cry fire in a crowded theater where there is no fire to prevent someone getting hurt in a possible stampede out the exits.  Trump’s actions this past week are comparable.  Five people died as a result of his inciting an insurrection at the Capital on Wednesday.


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