Twitter banned President Donald Trump's account Friday, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.”
The social platform has been under growing pressure to take further action against Trump following Wednesday's deadly insurrection at the U.S. 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.
Later Friday, Trump tweeted from the White House account (@POTUS) criticizing Twitter's move. The posts were taken down and his comments were then released by the White House as an official statement.
The Trump Campaign Twitter account also appears to have been suspended.
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 to 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 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."
The company said “plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021. ”
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.
It remains unclear how the platforms will handle Trump once he leaves office and is no longer shielded from enforcement of most rules by his status as a world leader. And some critics saw the moves as cynical efforts by the companies to position themselves for a post-Trump future.
“They no longer have to fear Donald Trump,” said Rashad Robinson of Color of Change, a group that has pushed tech companies to do more to rein in hate speech. He said Facebook’s action was “in the best interest of Facebook” and a way to curry favor with the incoming Democratic president and Congress.
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A day earlier, Facebook and Instagram said they will bar Trump from posting at least until the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
In announcing the unprecedented move, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said the risk of allowing Trump to use the platform is too great following the president's incitement of a mob on Wednesday. Zuckerberg said Trump’s account will be locked “for at least the next two weeks” and possibly indefinitely.
“The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden," Zuckerberg wrote.
Trump has repeatedly harnessed the power of social media to spread falsehoods about election integrity and the results of the presidential race. Platforms like Facebook have occasionally labeled or even removed some of his posts, but the overall response has failed to satisfy a growing number of critics who say the platforms have enabled the spread of dangerous misinformation.
In light of Wednesday's riot, however, Zuckerberg said a more aggressive approach is needed because of the “use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government."
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, will also block Trump's ability to post on its platform. YouTube, owned by Google, announced more general changes that will penalize accounts spreading misinformation about voter fraud in the 2020 election, with repeat offenders facing permanent removal. Snapchat on Wednesday 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, saying it didn't want to be used “to incite further violence." Companies outside the social media world also scrambled to take stock of how they'd been used by those who swarmed the Capitol. E-commerce company Shopify shut down two online Trump memorabilia stores for promoting people or organizations “that threaten or condone violence to further a cause.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an email that “it’s incredibly ironic, yet not surprising, that when the President spoke to the country at a critical time Big Tech chose to censor and block him from doing so.”