With mere days before his presidency is set to end, Twitter Inc. permanently suspended the account of Donald Trump on Friday.
“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,” Twitter
announced in a blog post in which the company said plans of another attack on the U.S. Capitol were already circulating both on and off the platform.
A spokesperson for the company told MarketWatch that Trump and others were banned in line with Twitter’s policy against harmful coordinated activity. The accounts of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump lawyer Sidney Powell were also permanently banned.
The breaking point came after Wednesday’s events, when Trump spoke at a rally of supporters, who later stormed the Capitol as Congress was voting to confirm the results of the election that cost Trump the presidency. Trump subsequently posted support for the riotous mob on Twitter and Facebook Inc.
; Facebook banned Trump on Thursday, while Twitter allowed Trump to return after a temporary ban.
The president used Twitter as a bully pulpit on his way to the presidency and as commander in chief, developing an audience on the site of 88.7 million. He provoked people and companies and rallied support for his causes, using the platform to bypass the news media and speak directly to constituents. Most dangerously, he pushed the false notion for months that he won the presidential election, which led to Wednesday’s bloody rally.
MediaJustice, an Oakland, Calif.-based social justice group, has urged Twitter to ban Trump for years and met with the company earlier this week.
“In many ways, this move is a day late and a dollar short,” said Steven Renderos, executive director of the group, on Friday. “But it’s about protecting democracy and the U.S. from further harm.”
Eric Goldman, law professor and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University, called the move inevitable. “For so long [Twitter was] justifying his behavior because he was a sitting president. The events of this week showed that even a sitting president needs to be held accountable for his words.”
Twitter had long supported keeping Trump and other world leaders on the platform, who use it to make some of their most important pronouncements. But his misbehavior since the election, culminating in Wednesday’s riot, finally led to a ban.
“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 company said in its blog post.
Trump had either directly or indirectly encouraged violence on Twitter for years, including against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the news media and others. In 2017, Twitter took down a couple of Trump tweets for the first time, when he retweeted right-wing British leaders who tweeted doctored videos of purported violence by Muslims. Twitter also got some heat for refusing to take down Trump’s tweets about having “a bigger nuclear button” than North Korea, which led to concerns about war.
Shares of Twitter, which tolerated the president’s behavior despite pleas it boot him, fell 2% in after-hours trading Friday.
Absent the Twitter and Facebook social-media megaphones that reached billions, Trump may increasingly turn to right-wing social-media sites like Parler.
Renderos acknowledged that Twitter’s long-awaited action “doesn’t undo the radicalization of people who live with an alternate set of facts. But it starts to move us toward a world where we can grapple with the reality that we’re in.”