Twitter Permanently Suspends Trump’s Account, Cites ‘Incitement of Violence’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
The permanently suspended Twitter account of President Donald Trump. (Twitter via Reuters)

Twitter Inc said on Friday that it has permanently suspended President Donald Trump’s account due to the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

The suspension of Trump’s account, which had more than 88 million followers, silences his primary megaphone days before the end of his term and follows years of debate about how social media companies should moderate the accounts of powerful global leaders.

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” the company said in a tweet.

It was the first time Twitter has banned a head of state, the company confirmed.

Social media companies have moved swiftly to crack down on Trump and some of his prominent right-wing allies and supporters in the wake of the turmoil in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, which led to five deaths.

Trump has repeatedly used Twitter and other platforms to claim his defeat in the Nov. 3 election was due to widespread voter fraud, and had urged supporters to come to Washington on Wednesday and march on the Capitol to protest the election result.

Facebook Inc said earlier this week it was suspending his account through until at least the end of his presidential term.

The Republican president is due to hand over to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

In a post on Friday, Twitter said that two of the president’s tweets posted that day were in violation of its policy against the glorification of violence.

Twitter had temporarily blocked Trump’s account on Wednesday following the siege of Capitol Hill, and warned that additional violations by the president’s accounts would result in a permanent suspension.

Trump was required to delete three rule-breaking tweets before his account was unblocked. He returned to Twitter on Thursday with a video acknowledging that Biden would be the next U.S. president.

Twitter said that Trump’s tweet that he would not be attending Biden’s inauguration was being received by a number of his supporters as confirmation that the November election was not legitimate.

It said another tweet praising “American Patriots” and saying his supporters “will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” could be seen as “further indication that President Trump does not plan to facilitate an orderly transition.”

Critics of major social media platforms, including top Democratic politicians, praised Twitter’s move and said it was long overdue, while Trump supporters expressed outrage.

The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., in a tweet on Friday decried the ban, saying dictators who had threatened genocide continued to have Twitter accounts. He did not provide names.

The White House had no immediate direct comment. The Trump campaign’s Twitter account criticized the company for “silencing” the president of the United States.

Using the @POTUS account, Trump said he would look at building his own platform.

Trump still has access to the official @WhiteHouse and @POTUS accounts but will lose this when his presidential term ends. Asked if Trump could create another account, a Twitter spokeswoman said if the company had reason to believe he was using accounts to evade Friday’s suspension, those accounts too could be suspended.

 

Below is the full text of Twitter’s statement on Trump’s ban:

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.

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. We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement.

The below is a comprehensive analysis of our policy enforcement approach in this case.

Overview

On January 8, 2021, President Donald J. Trump Tweeted:

“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!!!”

Shortly thereafter, the President Tweeted:

“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

Due to the ongoing tensions in the United States, and an uptick in the global conversation in regards 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. After assessing the language in these Tweets against our Glorification of Violence policy, we have determined that these Tweets are in violation of the Glorification of Violence Policy and the user @realDonaldTrump should be immediately permanently suspended from the service.

Assessment

We assessed the two Tweets referenced above under our Glorification of Violence policy, which aims to prevent the glorification of violence that could inspire others to replicate violent acts and determined that they were highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

This determination is based on a number of factors, including:

  • 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 Scavino, that there would be an “orderly transition” on January 20th.
  • 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.
  • The use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters is also being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the US Capitol.
  • The mention of his supporters having a “GIANT VOICE long into the future” and that “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” is being interpreted as further indication that President Trump does not plan to facilitate an “orderly transition” and instead that he plans to continue to support, empower, and shield those who believe he won the election.
  • 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.

As such, our determination is that the two Tweets above 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.