Twitter bans Trump permanently over risk of violent incitement

Twitter banned US President Donald Trump’s account on Friday, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence”.

The social media platform has been under growing pressure to take further action against Mr Trump following Wednesday’s deadly insurrection at the US Capitol.

Twitter initially suspended Mr 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.

A statement posted on Twitter’s blog said it had “made it clear” previously that the President’s account was “not above our rules”, and said it took action “in the context of horrific events” earlier this week.

Twitter has long given Mr Trump and other world leaders broad exemptions from its rules against personal attacks, hate speech and other behaviours. But in its lengthy statement 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 the Trump tweets cited by Twitter, Mr Trump stated that he would 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’s statement said: “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.

Trump supporters participate in Wednesday's rally
Trump supporters participate in Wednesday’s rally (John Minchillo/AP)

“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.

“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 entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things.”

Twitter’s move deprives Mr Trump of a potent tool he has used to communicate directly with the American people for more than a decade. With some 89 million followers, he has tweeted to announce policy changes, challenge opponents, insult enemies, praise his allies and himself, and to spread misinformation.

In the wake of Wednesday’s insurrection, calls were mounting for Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms to suspend the president’s access to social media permanently.

Contrasted Twitter’s initial 12-hour suspension, Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, on Thursday suspended Mr Trump’s account for at least two weeks, and possibly indefinitely.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Twitter declined to make CEO Jack Dorsey available and had no further comment. The official account for the President of the United States, @potus, remains live.

Electoral College Photo Gallery
Donald Trump at his rally before the riots on Wednesday ((Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

On Friday, the company permanently banned two Trump loyalists — former national security adviser Michael Flynn and attorney Sidney Powell — as part of a broader purge of accounts promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory. Twitter vowed to take action on behaviour that has the potential to lead to offline harm.

“Given the renewed potential for violence surrounding this type of behaviour in the coming days, we will permanently suspend accounts that are solely dedicated to sharing QAnon content,” Twitter said in an emailed statement.

The company also said Trump attorney Lin Wood was permanently suspended on Tuesday for violating its rules, but provided no additional details.

The company says that when it determines a group or campaign is engaged in “coordinated harmful activity” it may suspend accounts that it finds primarily encourages that behaviour.

Social media companies have been under intensified pressure to crack down on hate speech since Wednesday, when a violent mob egged on by Mr Trump stormed the Capitol. Dozens of QAnon social media accounts were hyping Mr Trump’s rally earlier in the day in the heart of Washington, expressing hope that it could lead to the overturn of the election results.

On Friday, the advocacy coalition Stop Hate for Profit launched a campaign to pressure the major platforms, including YouTube owner Google, to kick Mr Trump off their services for good.

The organisation, which includes the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Free Press and Colour of Change, said it would call for an advertiser boycott if the platforms did not take action by January 20, the date of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Some federal politicians and celebrities likewise called on the tech companies to extend suspensions or ban Mr Trump altogether. Frank Pallone, a powerful Democratic congressman from New Jersey, tweeted that it was “time for (Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey) and Mark Zuckerberg to remove Trump from their platforms”.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted on Thursday that Silicon Valley companies should stop enabling Mr Trump’s “monstrous behavior” and called for them to permanently ban Mr Trump and enact policies to prevent their technology from being used by national leaders to “fuel insurrection”.

After his 12-hour suspension, Mr Trump resumed tweeting on Thursday. Twitter had said it could take further action as it kept track of “activity on the ground and statements made off Twitter”.

Richmond and Twickenham Times | UK News