Twitter permanently suspends Trump, citing potential threat to inauguration day
Twitter said it had analyzed Trump’s recent tweets, and they appeared to be coded in a way that could encourage further violence. Trump told supporters on Twitter that they “will have a giant voice long into the future” and that “they will not be disrespected.” And in a follow-up tweet Trump said he would not attend Biden’s swearing-in ceremony.
“The second Tweet may also serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the Inauguration would be a ‘safe’ target, as he will not be attending,” Twitter said.
The permanent Trump suspension was just one of the shoes to drop against the conservative social media sphere. On Friday, Reddit, a site devoted to user-controlled forums known as subreddits, banned a community of the president’s supporters called “DonaldTrump.” Meanwhile, Google removed the Parler app from the Google Play store, which is where users access apps. Parler has become a rightwing refuge for people suspended from Twitter. Apple was reportedly considering a similar ban of Parler.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted videos and text messages that seemed to communicate to a mob of his supporters in Washington that he condoned their invasion of Congress, which temporarily disrupted the election certification of President-elect Joe Biden and terrorized members of Congress.
It became a moment of reckoning for the world of social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Google’s YouTube, Reddit, Amazon’s Twitch and even Shopify. All those services took steps this week to penalize Trump, limiting his access. For at least months, if not years, world leaders and business leaders, including many in the ad world, had implored digital platforms to take action against hate speech and disinformation of the kind that moves masses of citizens to violence.
The ad world was drawn into the outrage because many in the industry have questioned brands and their culpability in funding the platforms. The Anti-Defamation League, NAACP and prominent ad groups have warned about the proliferation of hate groups and militias online.
The warnings prompted soul-searching, and social media companies promised to crack down on the types of accounts that played a high-profile role on Wednesday. Those accounts now include the president of the United States.
“The ADL, which has been tracking extremists for decades, has been ringing the alarm about this potential scenario for years, for weeks, for months, for days, and we were not surprised at all by the bedlam that unfolded,” said Jonathan Greenblatt in an interview with Ad Age this week, in which he called for Twitter and all social media to suspend Trump.
“Look, he has used other social media, but Twitter has been his main go-to,” Greenblatt said. “That’s why I called at a minimum for [Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey] to suspend his account, as Twitter would do for any other user.”
Trump has been a social media phenomenon, essentially tweeting his way to the White House. Trump’s antics seemed to put the platforms in impossible positions. On the one hand, they were being warned that his supporters were wreaking havoc and were dangerous. On the other hand, it would be a drastic step to silence the leader of the free world, who had plenty of other avenues to apply pressure on the companies. Trump’s Senate supporters even dragged Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg into Congress in October over claims they censored “rightwing” personalities and media.
Former and current employees at Twitter and Facebook also joined calls demanding senior executives take more responsibility policing the services. Twitter and Facebook were tougher than they had ever been. Facebook suspended Trump’s account at least through Biden’s inauguration and potentially beyond.
Before the permanent suspension, Twitter had removed offending tweets from Trump’s account, and set him in temporary block for 12 hours on Wednesday into Thursday. Twitter had threatened that any further violation would risk a permanent suspension.
Trump did tweet a message to supporters on Friday, but it was not named in Twitter’s action report that outlined the reasons for his current status.
Visiting Trump’s page now just shows “@realdonaldtrump account suspended.” None of his previous tweets or followers are visible. He had close to 90 million followers before the account was removed.
On Friday, Twitter also said it was taking more forceful action against the types of accounts that promote Trump and conspiracy theories, including groups like QAnon. “We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm, and 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 a statement on Friday.
Twitter also permanently suspended Trump allies Michael Flynn and Sydney Powell.
Also on Friday, Reddit, a forum where users create communities called subreddits devoted to all manner of niche topics, banned the “Donald Trump” subreddit for “repeated violations,” the company said. In June, Reddit purged a subreddit called “The_Donald,” which was a stomping ground for president’s most active online supporters.
As of late Friday, Trump has not yet been seen on Parler.