A photo illustration shows the suspended Twitter account of U.S. President Donald Trump on a smartphone at the White House briefing room in Washington, U.S., January 8, 2021. Trump used his personal Twitter account to stoke supporters and even announce personnel changes before putting out a press release.
Notably, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris had called on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey directly to ban Trump during her own presidential campaign in fall 2019. At the time, even staunch tech critic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a fellow presidential contender, declined to join in that call during a debate.
Twitter initially blocked some of Trump's tweets from public view on Wednesday and required he deletes them to regain access to his account. But, Twitter warned, future policy violations would result in permanent suspension of Trump's account.
The company broke down the reasons it believed those tweets violated the policy, including that his message that he would not attend the inauguration “is being received by a number of his supporters as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate.” Twitter also feared that tweet could be viewed by supporters as a signal it would be “safe” to plan violent acts around the event since he would not be there.
The company noted that Trump's assertion that supporters would have a “GIANT VOICE long into the future” was undermining the idea that there would in fact be an orderly transition. The suspensions from Facebook and Twitter represent a major shift at the companies, which have up until now avoided taking such a drastic measure on Trump's accounts.
Executives at both companies have been faced with intense criticism accusing them of treating Trump's and other conservatives' accounts unfairly, which both have denied. Trump first was banned temporarily by both platforms on Wednesday in the midst of a riot where his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers proceeded with the formality of counting Electoral College votes.
At the time, Twitter said Trump would be banned permanently if he continued to violate its rules, including those around civic integrity or violent threats. Twitter permanently suspending President Donald Trump ’s Twitter account Friday evening.“Due to the ongoing tensions in the United States, and an uptick in the global conversation in regard to the people who violently stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, these two Tweets must be read in the context of broader events in the country and 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,” Twitter said in its Friday blog.
Twitter decided the new tweets were “highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts” at the Capitol, and shared its reasoning in five parts: President Trump ’s statement that he will not be attending the Inauguration is being received by a number of his supporters as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate and is seen as him disavowing his previous claim made via two Tweets (1, 2) by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Dan Saving, that there would be an “orderly transition” on January 20th.
For years, Twitter has faced pressure to remove Trump from its platform due to the large megaphone it’s offered him to spread hateful language and lies. A company spokesperson said in a separate statement to POLITICO that it removed the POTUS tweets and suspended the campaign account for violating rules against trying to evade bans.
The decisions, a day after Facebook locked Trump's account at least until President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, leave the leader of the free world cut off from two of his most potent means of communicating directly with his tens of millions of followers. And it came amid other moves by some of Silicon Valley's biggest powers to sever communication channels used by the president and his supporters, including people who cheered or took part in Wednesday's violence.
Apple has also threatened to remove Parker from its app store, BuzzFeed News reported. Twitter had also purged a swath of accounts earlier Friday for espousing content related to QAnon, including those of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump attorney Sidney Powell.
But Trump has made the same demand in vain in recent months, and it appears even less likely to happen after Democrats take full control of Congress. “No private company is obligated to provide a megaphone for a malicious campaign to incite violence,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), said in a statement Friday.
After his account was reactivated Thursday, Trump tweeted out two messages saying his supporters “will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form,” and announcing he would not be attending President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. “These two Tweets must be read in the context of broader events in the country and 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 said in its statement.
Those included a tweet attacking Vice President Mike Pence for refusing to overturn the election results, and another describing the rioters as “great patriots.” The actions marked the harshest confrontation to date between the president and Silicon Valley companies over his incendiary posts and accounts.
“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a statement posted to his personal page the day after the mayhem. The company announced Thursday it would begin suspending and potentially permanently removing users who violated policies against spreading baseless claims of election fraud, but Trump would need to repeatedly break those or other rules to be booted off for good.
Democratic lawmakers, civil rights leaders and other activists have long called for Twitter and Facebook to take more forceful action against Trump, with some urging for his permanent removal. But Republicans have pushed back on those efforts, accusing tech companies of an anti-conservative bias, a charge they deny.
Trump is inciting violence and spreading dangerous misinformation that is undermining our democracy and our way of life. Twitter's decision late Friday to boot Trump off the platform for good immediately drew muted praise from Democratic officials, who welcomed it but chastised the company for not stepping in sooner.
But Jen Saki, the president-elect’s incoming White House press secretary, said last month that whether Trump attended the inauguration was not top of mind for Biden. On Thursday, with 12 days left in his term, Trump finally bent to reality amid growing talk of trying to force him out early, acknowledging he’ll peacefully leave after Congress affirmed his defeat.
Instead of offering condolences to the police officer who died from injuries sustained during the riot, Trump took to twitter to commend the “great American Patriots” who’d voted for him. Thursday evening’s address, which appeared designed to stave off talk of a forced early eviction, came at the end of a day when the cornered president stayed out of sight in the White House.
And as officials sifted through the aftermath of the pro- Trump mob’s siege of the U.S. Capitol, there was growing discussion of impeaching him a second time or invoking the 25th Amendment to oust him from the Oval Office. They struggled with how best to contain the impulses of a president deemed too dangerous to control his own social media accounts but who remains commander in chief of the world’s greatest military.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that “the President of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America.” She called him “a very dangerous person who should not continue in office. Neither option to remove Trump seemed likely, with little time left in his term to draft the Cabinet members needed to invoke the amendment or to organize the hearings and trial mandated for an impeachment.
The company also warned that further violations of its rules “will result in permanent suspension of Trump's Twitter account. One of the tweets included a video of Trump repeating unfounded claims that the election was taken from him and encouraging his supporters to disperse after violence erupted at the Capitol.
Facebook said it would be blocking the president's account from posting for 24 hours due to two policy violations. Twitter removed Trump's post after initially having prohibited it from being retweeted or replied to.
It had added a tag to the post that read, “This claim of election fraud is disputed, and this Tweet can't be replied to, Retweeted, or liked due to a risk of violence.” The removals are dramatic steps given past hesitancy to curb the speech of political figures, such as the president.
YouTube said in a statement that the video violated “policies regarding content that alleges widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome.” Rose reiterated the sentiment in a company blog post that said Facebook's leadership team was “appalled by the violence at the Capitol” and outlined the steps the platform would be taking to moderate related content.
Twitter's safety team put out a statement saying the “calls to violence” were a violation of its rules. “In regard to the ongoing situation in Washington, D.C., we are working proactively to protect the health of the public conversation occurring on the service and will take action on any content that violates the Twitter Rules,” the statement said.
“In addition, we have been significantly restricting engagement with Tweets labeled under our Civic Integrity Policy due to the risk of violence. The video was tweeted at 4:17 p.m., about three hours after Trump told his supporters to march on the Capitol.
Although social media platforms acted to remove the video, several prominent voices within the tech world were quick to sound off about it and the actions of the social media companies, including venture investor Chris Sacco and Alex Stamps, the former chief security officer at Facebook. In an internal company Slack room, several Twitter employees who previously defended the decision to keep Trump ’s account on the platform shifted their opinion after today’s protests.
The Slack room allows for employees to speak with the team on Twitter who makes site integrity and moderation decisions. Dylan Byers is a senior media reporter for NBC News based in Los Angeles.