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Twitter Permanently Suspends Trump, Citing 'Risk Of Further Incitement Of Violence'

President Trump's Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, has been permanently suspended, the company announced.
Screenshot by NPR
President Trump's Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, has been permanently suspended, the company announced.

Updated 10:05 p.m. ET Friday

Twitter has permanently suspended President Trump's account over a pattern of behavior that violated company rules.

The action was the most sweeping punishment any major social media company has ever taken against Trump, who has used his Twitter account to announce White House policy, attack rivals and widely disseminate misinformation.

For years, Twitter has been under pressure from critics to limit the reach of Trump's falsehood-laced tweets. Calls for Trump to be banned from Twitter have also been long mounting.

Yet officials at Twitter stood by his account, since the platform generally gives wide berth to accounts from world leaders whose posts have public value.

That all changed following the violent riots that overtook the Capitol earlier this week after a deluge of posts attempting to sabotage the result of the presidential election.

Now, @realDonaldTrump is gone for good and attempts to evade the ban will result in enforcement, Twitter officials said.

"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 statement.

Trump says Twitter silenced him and his supporters

It did not take long for Trump to try to get around the ban. Trump tweeted four messages from the @POTUS account. All were swiftly taken down.

In the posts, which Trump also shared in a written statement, he accused Twitter of banning free speech.

He said Twitter silenced him and "the 75,000,000 great patriots who voted for me."

He also echoed complaints about a legal shield, known as Section 230, that has long protected tech companies from lawsuits over what is posted on its sites.

"Twitter may be a private company, but without the government's gift of Section 230 they would not exist for long," the president wrote.

Far smaller social media sites, like Gab and Parler, market themselves as having more of an anything-goes culture. The platforms have become especially popular among Trump supporters and other conservatives.

In his statement, Trump said his social media presence will be moving to a yet undisclosed platform.

"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. We will not be SILENCED!" Trump said.

Late Friday, Twitter also suspended @TeamTrump, an account associated with the Trump campaign, after it shared a portion of Trump's statement condemning the company's action.

Trump called Twitter his 'rocket ship'

Trump's Twitter account, which had more than 88 million followers, was removed following the company's warning the president it would happen if he did not stop abusing the platform, including his attempts to sabotage the results of the November election by peddling false claims.

The move is a stunning fall from grace for Trump, who assembled a massive national following, in large part through the prolific use of his Twitter feed. The platform was his preferred tool for announcing major changes in federal policy — and even changes in personnel. He occasionally fired Cabinet secretaries and aides via tweet.

He took pride in his ability to get around the mainstream media and drive cable news with tweets he compared to "a rocket ship."

"I call Twitter a typewriter," Trump told a White House summit with right-wing social media provocateurs in 2019.

"I go, 'Watch this.' Boom. I press it, and within two seconds, 'We have breaking news,' " he said.

President Trump has accused Twitter of banning free speech. The social media company permanently suspended his verified personal account Friday, and four tweets from the president's official account were removed later the same evening.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
Getty Images
President Trump has accused Twitter of banning free speech. The social media company permanently suspended his verified personal account Friday, and four tweets from the president's official account were removed later the same evening.

But Trump used his Twitter account to do more: routinely disparage, attack and threaten his rivals. Researchers say Trump's tweets supercharged falsehoods about racial justice protesters, the coronavirus and the election, among many other topics.

Inspired and encouraged by the president's rhetoric — on and off social media — thousands of rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. That marked a turning point for Twitter, but it initially stopped short of permanently banning the president and instead limited his access for several hours.

Trump's allies took to Twitter to express their fury at the company's decision. Some complained that the company allowed leaders of repressive countries to tweet.

Jason Miller, who was a top adviser to Trump during his campaign, called the ban "disgusting" and said "Big Tech" wanted to "cancel" the 75 million people who voted for Trump.

"If you don't think they're coming for you next, you're wrong," Miller said on Twitter.

Growing Trump fallout on social media

Twitter's decision on Friday comes after Facebook and Instagram banned Trump for at least two weeks. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said permitting the president to continue to use the platform during the presidential transition posed a risk that was "simply too great."

Researchers who study the spread of conspiracies online have said the mayhem that unfolded on the Capitol may have been avoided had the major social media platforms done more to suppress baseless claims about election fraud.

For months, the platforms have been warned about the potential real-world dangers, such as political violence, that could occur when falsehoods about an election are amplified on social media, said Ryan Calo, a cyber law professor at the University of Washington.

"I am disappointed," Calo said during a briefing with the Election Integrity Partnership, a coalition of misinformation experts. "At how much of a pass the platforms are getting based on saying that they didn't realize that this was a possibility. I think they specifically knew. And I am amazed that it's taken a literal insurrection to even pause this demagoguery on their platforms."

Trump still has access to official White House accounts while in office, such as @POTUS and @WhiteHouse — but his access to those accounts end on Jan. 20, the first day of Joe Biden's presidency.

A Twitter official said @POTUS and @WhiteHouse will not be suspended, but the company "will take action to limit their use" ahead of the accounts transitioning to the Biden administration. The company's policy is to suspend any accounts that are used to get around a ban such as the one imposed on the president Friday.

The final tweet from @realDonaldTrump, sent Friday, read, "To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th."

Some Trump supporters understood that message "as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate," Twitter said in its statement. It could also be interpreted as a disavowal of pledges by Trump's staff to have an orderly transition on Inauguration Day, the company added.

Editor's note: Facebook is among NPR's financial supporters.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.