Twitter said it would only allow President Trump to violate its rules one more time, and on Friday decided he'd done so.
From the Twitter blog: "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."
Of course, Trump still has access to @potus and various other White House-associated accounts until Inauguration Day, but Twitter's ban cuts off one of his largest pulpits and most important platforms right before he leaves office.
The ban seemed practically inevitable after Wednesday, when Twitter forced Trump to remove three tweets from his account and banned him for at least 12 hours. When Trump returned to the platform, he posted one conciliatory video before returning to something like his old ways.
He tweeted: "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!!!" (We would embed the tweet, but of course, we can't anymore.)
That tweet, and the one that followed, announcing Trump wouldn't be going to the Biden inauguration on Jan. 20, were evidently the last straw. "[T]hese two Tweets must be read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President's statements can be mobilized by different audiences," Twitter's policy enforcement analysis said, "including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent weeks.
In a vacuum, it seems, those tweets didn't violate any of Twitter's policies. But given the recent history with @realdonaldtrump and the framework by which his tweets were now being reviewed, they were deemed "highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021." Twitter also seems to have had some evidence that that was the case. The company said "there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so." Indeed, Twitter and other platforms have already been used to plan further attacks around the country.
Trump did try to get around the ban, using the @POTUS account to tweet his anger about Twitter's decision. His tweetstorm ended with a "...STAY TUNED!" that surely would have been cause for Trump to be banned, if he hadn't already been banned. Twitter immediately deleted those posts as well. Soon after, he tried the same with the @TeamTrump account, which met the same fate. Then he tried other accounts. Same fate
One of Trump's now-deleted tweets from @POTUS, trying to circumvent his ban.Photo: David Pierce
So now the question remains: Where does Trump go? He's locked out of posting on Facebook, at least for the next two weeks. All over the internet, Trump-related communities including The Donald on Discord and the_donald on Reddit have been shut down. There's been a massive shift in the tech industry's thinking, caused both by a changing political climate and the disturbing images from the riots at the Capitol this week.
For Trump, Parler would seem the obvious choice, but Parler's days may be numbered: The company reportedly received a letter from Apple demanding that it create a plan for content moderation within the next 24 hours, BuzzFeed reported, or it would be removed from the App Store. The tech companies clearly feel more empowered than ever to remove the kind of content they've been reluctant to touch for the last several years, and it could leave Trump without many ways to reach a massive audience.
Twitter, meanwhile, has to decide what kind of precedent this will set. The company already permanently suspended Sidney Powell and Mike Flynn, two other right-wing users, for spreading QAnon-related account. Twitter cited its policy against Coordinated Harmful Activity in announcing the bans. Of course, those are hardly the only people on Twitter still talking about QAnon. And there are politicians around the world using Twitter to incite violence and rile up their supporters in ways similar to President Trump. Twitter may not have changed its rules to ban Trump, but it certainly changed the way it enforced them. Now it has to decide how far that goes.