Future Tense

Twitter Finally Banned Donald Trump

A screenshot of Trump's banned account.
Users can no longer read any of Trump’s tweets on the platform. Twitter

Twitter announced on Friday evening that it had “permanently suspended” the president’s personal account, @realDonaldTrump, two days after the pro-Trump riot that engulfed the Capitol.

Twitter initially blocked Trump from posting on Wednesday until he agreed to take down three tweets he’d sent during the Capitol riot that the platform claimed were inciting violence and interfering in the electoral process. The president, or someone controlling @realDonaldTrump at the time, removed them over Wednesday night going into Thursday morning, at which point Twitter placed an additional 12-hour lock on the account. Trump regained access to the account later on Thursday, though Twitter said it would banish him from the platform if he continued to break its rules. The ultimate decision to permanently ban him came after Trump posted two tweets on Friday, which the platform said could cause more violence.

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“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,” the company said in a blog post. Twitter specifically cited two tweets the president posted as violating its “glorification of violence” policy. The first, sent at 9:46 a.m., read, “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!!!” The company contended that the use of the term “American Patriots” was being interpreted by some pro-Trumpers as “support for those committing violent acts at the US Capitol.” It also said that Trump’s claims about supporters having a giant voice and not being disrespected or treated unfairly was being interpreted as him planning to “continue to support, empower, and shield those who believe he won the election.”

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The other tweet, sent at 10:44 a.m., read, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.” Twitter said that this post was being received by some of his supporters as a rebuke to his previous statements promising an “orderly transition” and served “as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate.” The company did not specify what exactly led them to believe that the two tweets were being interpreted in such a way, but did note that there were plans being made for “future armed protests” occurring off Twitter, including a proposal to attack state capitol buildings on Jan. 17.

Twitter is the first major social media platform to permanently ban Trump. (Snapchat and Twitch did indefinitely lock Trump’s accounts.) In an attempt to crack down on the QAnon conspiracy theory, Twitter also banned prominent Trump supporters like Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell. Facebook announced on Thursday that it would prevent Trump from posting for at least two weeks until Biden is inaugurated. However, users can still view his account and previous posts, and there is still a chance that it will be reinstated after Jan. 20. (The Daily Beast reported on Friday that a permanent Facebook ban was “likely,” but not definite.) The Washington Post reports that, following Facebook’s decision, about 350 Twitter employees sent an internal letter addressed to top executives demanding a permanent suspension of the president. Some who counsel the company have been pushing for this action as well. As Danielle Citron, a University of Virginia Law School professor who also serves on Twitter’s Trust and Safety board, wrote in a Slate piece on Wednesday:

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Jack Dorsey has suggested in interviews that he is game to fix problems as they arise. I and countless others who have called for Twitter to kick Trump off would like to take you up on that offer and the epistemic humility it reveals. Time to change how you apply the rules to public officials so that you see their destructive activity as a whole.

Parler, a microblogging site that caters to conservatives, crashed shortly after Twitter’s announcement. Fox News anchor Sean Hannity has claimed that Trump has a Parler account.

Update, 9:08 p.m.: After his @realDonaldTrump account was deleted, Trump sent several tweets from @POTUS, which is the official account for the president of the United States. Twitter deleted those, too.

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Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.

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