Dorsey, Zuckerberg hold the cards for Trump’s future: Ian Bremmer
Twitter Inc. permanently banned U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal account for breaking its rules against glorifying violence, marking the most high-profile punishment the company has ever imposed and the end of Trump’s relationship with his favorite social media megaphone.
“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,” the company wrote in a blog post on Friday.
San Francisco-based Twitter announced the ban two days after Trump was initially suspended for posting a series of tweets that misled users about the presidential election results, and appeared to encourage violent rioters who had mobbed the U.S. Capitol. One included a video message of Trump expressing love for the insurgents and calling the election “fraudulent.”
Twitter had demanded that Trump delete three offending tweets, and warned at the time that he could be permanently blocked for subsequent rules violations. His account, which had more than 88 million followers, was restored Thursday. Trump’s posts on Friday included a tweet saying he wouldn’t attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration -- and Twitter determined the tweets violated the company’s policies when “read in the context of broader events in the country.”
“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!!!” Trump posted earlier Friday.
The company said this was an indication that the president planned to continue supporting and empowering those who believe he won the November election. “Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021,” Twitter wrote.
Twitter said it reviewed the tweets given “the ways in which the President’s statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent weeks.” The company’s shares slipped about 3.8 per cent in extended trading. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the permanent ban.
Trump’s suspension ends what has been the most controversial relationship Twitter has ever had with one of its users. Trump often used his account to verbally attack opponents and spread misinformation in ways that broke the social network’s rules. In some cases, Twitter created new rules specifically to accommodate the president’s reckless tweeting, including a special policy for world leaders, which put their rule-breaking tweets behind a filter instead of removing them entirely. The company had begun to take a tougher stance on Trump’s tweets in recent months, especially on posts about Black Lives Matter protests and unsubstantiated claims of election fraud.
After Trump’s temporary suspension earlier this week, many critics and civil rights advocates voiced concern that Twitter hadn’t gone far enough. That group included many Twitter employees, who delivered a letter to Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey Friday demanding the service remove Trump entirely.
“We do not believe these actions are sufficient,” employees wrote of Twitter’s temporary ban, according to a copy of the letter published by the Washington Post. Earlier on Friday, the group SumOfUs, which fights for change at powerful companies, parked a boat on the water outside of Dorsey’s San Francisco home demanding Twitter ban Trump. Dorsey hasn’t made any public comment about the activity on his network this week. Executives have said that Dorsey generally lets such decisions fall to Twitter’s top policy executive, Vijaya Gadde, whose teams are responsible for policing the President’s account.
Following the ban on @realDonaldTrump, Trump sent a tweet late Friday from the separate account @POTUS, which belongs to the office of the president and has about 33 million followers.
“As I have been saying for a long time, Twitter 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,” read the post, which has since been removed from view. A Twitter spokesman said earlier that if Trump turned to the @POTUS account to circumvent the ban, the company might limit its use in the days before it’s handed over to Biden.
Trump’s banishment was applauded by many who had long called for Twitter to boot the President’s account. Earlier Friday, Stop Hate for Profit, a coalition of civil rights and advocacy groups, threatened to organize another advertiser boycott of Facebook Inc., Twitter and Alphabet Inc. if the internet platforms didn’t remove Trump permanently by Jan. 20.
The coalition, which includes the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Anti-Defamation League and Color of Change, organized an ad boycott of Facebook in July over the proliferation of hate speech on the platform. “@Facebook, your turn. We’re waiting,” Color of Change President Rashad Robinson tweeted on Friday following Twitter’s move.
U.S. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia who has been one of tech’s most vocal critics in Washington, called the ban “an overdue step,” and added that “this is much bigger than one person. It’s about an entire ecosystem that allows misinformation and hate to spread and fester unchecked.”
Trump supporters have long accused social networks of overstepping in their efforts to police user content. Many have declared their intention to move from Twitter to Parler Inc., a social network that bills itself as the home of free speech.
“Disgusting. Big Tech wants to cancel all 75M @realDonaldTrump supporters,” wrote Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller, on Twitter. “If you don’t think they’re coming for you next, you’re wrong.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina and a longtime Trump ally, called Twitter’s move a mistake and said he would continue his effort to remove internet companies’ legal protections for user content.
“I’m more determined than ever to strip Section 230 protections from Big Tech (Twitter) that let them be immune from lawsuits,” Graham tweeted.
--With assistance from Josh Wingrove, Naomi Nix and Ben Brody.