Twitter permanently suspends Donald Trump’s account after petition from hundreds of employees
Twitter said it did so "due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” and two recent tweets by Trump were "likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate" the riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Twitter announced Friday evening that it has permanently suspended Donald Trump’s personal account.
“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 statement.
The social platform had been under growing pressure to take further action against Trump following the Wednesday violence. On Wednesday, Facebook suspended Trump’s account through Jan. 20 and possibly indefinitely. Twitter merely suspended 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.
Twitter’s move deprives Trump of a potent tool he has used to communicate directly with the American people for more than a decade. He has used Twitter to announce policy changes, challenge opponents, insult enemies, praise his allies (and himself), and to spread misinformation.
Trump was locked out of his account on his preferred social medial platform for 12 hours earlier this week after a violent mob loyal to him stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to stop Congress from affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Trump posted a video on Twitter calling them “very special” people and saying he loved them. Five people died, including a Capitol Police officer.
Twitter has long given Trump and other world leaders broad exemptions from its rules against personal attacks, hate speech and other behaviors. But in a lengthy explanation posted on its blog Friday, 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 those tweets, Trump stated that he will 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.”
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“Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly,” Twitter’s statement said. “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.”
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. In fact, Trump, who issued a statement Friday evening that denounced Twitter as an enemy of free speech and floated the idea that he might build his own “platform,” also posted it on the @POTUS account, where it was quickly deleted.
Twitter says using another account to evade a suspension is against its rules, and that while it won’t ban government accounts like @POTUS or @WhiteHouse, it will “take action to limit their use.”
On Friday, Twitter also 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 said it will take action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm.
“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 to the Associated Press. The company also said Trump attorney Lin Wood was permanently suspended Tuesday for violating its rules, but provided no additional details.
Now that Trump has been knocked off one of his favorite pulpits, he may resort to other online channels such as Parler, a 2-year-old, more freewheeling alternative to Twitter that has become increasingly popular among the president’s most ardent supporters. Many have used the forum to spread falsehoods and hateful comments.
But Parler, which was already tiny compared to Twitter, has bigger problems that could threaten its future. Google suspended Parler from its app store on Friday over continued postings that seek “to incite ongoing violence in the U.S.” The company cited an “ongoing and urgent public safety threat” and said Parler won’t be reinstated until the issues are addressed.
Apple has issued Parler a similar warning and given it 24 hours to fix things. Parler CEO John Matze said in a post that the company “won’t cave to politically motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech.”
Earlier Friday, hundreds of Twitter employees demanded in a letter that the company’s leaders permanently suspend President Donald Trump’s Twitter account because of his actions surrounding the storming of the U.S. Capitol Tuesday, calling the company’s response insufficient.
In an internal letter addressed to chief executive Jack Dorsey and his top executives viewed by The Washington Post, roughly 350 Twitter employees asked for a clear account of the company’s decision-making process regarding the President’s tweets the day that a pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol. Employees also requested an investigation into the past several years of corporate actions that led to Twitter’s role in the insurrection.
“Despite our efforts to serve the public conversation, as Trump’s megaphone, we helped fuel the deadly events of January 6th,” the employees wrote. “We request an investigation into how our public policy decisions led to the amplification of serious anti-democratic threats. We must learn from our mistakes in order to avoid causing future harm.”
“We play an unprecedented role in civil society and the world’s eyes are upon us. Our decisions this week will cement our place in history, for better or worse,” the letter added.
The letter was addressed to “Staff,” company lingo for C-suite executives who report directly to Dorsey, including Vijaya Gadde, who leads the company’s legal, policy, and trust and safety divisions. During a virtual meeting on Friday afternoon, Dorsey and Gadde shared their thoughts on Twitter’s response, according to an employee, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.
This article includes reporting from the Washington Post and the Associated Press.
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