Twitter “permanently suspends” Trump after Capitol siege

The ban comes after 300 employees at Twitter signed a petition calling for Trump's removal from the platform.
Donald Trump appears at an event in 2011. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr Creative Commons)

Donald Trump’s preferred online megaphone has been taken away from him.

On Friday, the social media platform Twitter announced it was permanently suspending the outgoing president out of concerns that some of Trump’s statements could lead to more violence following a deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol earlier in the week.

“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,” a Twitter spokesperson wrote in a blog post published late Friday evening.

For several years, Twitter had resisted calls to remove Trump’s account, granting the president an exemption to some of its policies regarding hateful, incendiary rhetoric. In defending that decision, Twitter said removing Trump’s account would “hide important information people should be able to see and debate.”

“It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions,” Twitter wrote in a 2018 blog post. “We review Tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them, and enforce our rules accordingly. No one person’s account drives Twitter’s growth, or influences these decisions. We work hard to remain unbiased with the public interest in mind.”

But this week, Trump’s comments crossed a line that Twitter said it could not ignore.

“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,” a spokesperson said on Friday. “We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement.”

Pro-Trump protesters participate in a rally outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. (Photo by Tyler Merbler, Wikimedia Commons)

Social media platforms have been criticized in the wake of the Capitol siege on Wednesday for enabling the violence that took place there by not better screening and removing posts that cast the recent presidential election as one rampant with voter fraud — a claim that has not been proven.

Those tweets coupled with the president’s comments in other forms of media were largely to blame for the insurrection at the Capitol building on Wednesday, lawmakers from both parties have charged.

On Friday, Twitter said further posts made by Trump could be construed as calling for more violence over the next several weeks. Taken together with information from Twitter and other sites that suggested more violent protests were scheduled, Twitter said it made the determination to permanently suspend Trump from their platform.

A Twitter spokesperson clarified that reporters who post tweets containing statements from Trump would not necessarily be subject to a suspension themselves, drawing a distinction between incendiary rhetoric and journalism.

The move came after more than 300 Twitter employees reportedly signed an internal petition demanding Trump be removed from the platform and asking the company’s top management for better guidance on how to enforce its own trust and safety policies when it comes to world figures.

“We must examine Twitter’s complicity in what President-Elect Biden has rightly termed insurrection,” the petition said, according to the Washington Post. “Those acts jeopardize the well-being of the United States, our company, and our employees.”

Through a White House official, Trump responded to the ban by promising to take his social media comments elsewhere.

“I predicted this would happen,” Trump said. “We have been negotiating with various other sites, and will have a big announcement soon, while we also look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future.”

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