By Sarah E. Needleman
Twitter Inc. said it is banning President Trump's personal
account, citing the risk of further incitement of violence and
closing off one of his main communications tools following the
attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his followers.
The announcement late Friday capped two days of sharply
escalated action by social-media companies in the wake of the riot
in Washington, D.C., amid pressure on the platforms to do more to
prevent additional violence.
Five people have died as a result of the riot.
Twitter had initially suspended Mr. Trump from posting on a
temporary basis that Wednesday night, saying his tweets had
violated its policies. The social-media company allowed him to
resume posting on Thursday. Facebook Inc., which also announced a
temporary suspension after the riot, announced Thursday that it
would extend that action indefinitely -- and at least through the
end of Mr. Trump's term. Many critics of the president had called
on Twitter to take more severe action as well.
"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 said in a blog post.
In a tweet, Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Mr. Trump's
campaign, called Twitter's move "disgusting," adding "Big Tech
wants to cancel all 75M @realDonaldTrump supporters."
Later Friday, a statement from Mr. Trump was posted in several
tweets on the @POTUS Twitter account. White House staffers have in
the past operated the official government account, which has
frequently retweeted posts from the president's personal
"Twitter employees have coordinated with the Democrats and the
Radical Left in removing my account from their platform, to silence
me -- and YOU, the 75,000,000 great patriots who voted for me," the
posts said. They added: "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!"
Twitter removed those new tweets from the @POTUS account soon
after they were posted, saying the move was consistent with its
policy against using other accounts to try to evade a suspension.
"For government accounts, such as @POTUS and @WhiteHouse, we will
not suspend those accounts permanently but will take action to
limit their use," a Twitter representative said.
Twitter and Facebook's actions to shut off two of the largest
megaphones Mr. Trump has relied on for years to communicate with
the public highlights the difficult position social-media platforms
face in regulating controversial content on their platforms. Mr.
Trump had more than 88 million followers on Twitter and more than
35 million on Facebook.
Conservatives have long complained about social-media platforms'
actions to label or remove posts they deem dangerous, abusive or
misleading. Some of them have promoted alternatives with far
less-stringent content rules, including Parler, a free
speech-focused social-media network favored by the right.
In the wake of the Capitol attack, many people have expressed
alarm at the role tech platforms played in spreading Mr. Trump's
unsubstantiated claims that the presidential election was stolen
and angry calls by his followers to take action in response.
Alphabet Inc.'s Google late Friday suspended Parler from its
smartphone app store, and Apple Inc. threatened to do the same.
Google said it acted because of "continued posting in the Parler
app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the U.S.," which
violated its requirements for sufficient moderation of egregious
content for apps it distributes. "In light of this ongoing and
urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app's listings
from the Play Store until it addresses these issues," a Google
Apple, citing similar concerns, said Parler has to provide
detailed plans about "what you will do to improve moderation and
content filtering your service for this kind of objectionable
content going forward," according to a notice provided to The Wall
Street Journal by John Matze, Parler's chief executive. Apple set a
deadline of 24 hours for Parler's compliance.
Other social-media companies placed indefinite bans on Mr. Trump
this week, including Snapchat parent Snap Inc. and Amazon.com
Inc.'s Twitch. A Snap spokeswoman said Thursday the president's
account was locked indefinitely because the company "will not
amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice."
Mr. Trump had tweeted three times since regaining account access
Thursday. In his first post, he tweeted a video condemning the
violence at the Capitol and acknowledging that a new administration
would be inaugurated Jan. 20, without specifically naming Mr. Biden
and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
On Friday he posted a tweet saying "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!!!" Then later, he said in a tweet that he would not be going
to the inauguration.
Mr. Trump won more than 74 million votes, seven million less
than Joe Biden received.
Twitter said it issued the ban in response to the Friday tweets,
saying the posts violated its glorification of violence policy. Due
to ongoing tensions, the company's blog post said, "These 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, including to incite violence, as well as in
the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent
Mr. Trump's tweets and photo were no longer visible on Twitter
as of Friday evening, replaced with a message saying "Account
suspended...Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter
Rules," and linking to its policies.
Twitter earlier Friday shut off the accounts of Michael Flynn,
Mr. Trump's former national security adviser, and Sidney Powell, a
lawyer who worked alongside Mr. Trump's legal team.
The company also said Friday that it suspended several accounts
associated with the far-right conspiracy group QAnon for violating
its policy on coordinated harmful activity.
Social-media companies have for years grappled with how to
handle and whether to moderate content from Mr. Trump, with those
efforts growing in the run-up to and after the 2020 presidential
election. Those decisions to label or remove content from Mr.
Trump, such as those making unsubstantiated claims of widespread
election fraud, have been welcomed by critics but included calls to
take stronger measures.
Stop Hate for Profit, a coalition of civil rights and advocacy
groups, was among organizations that earlier Friday urged that "the
world's largest social media companies finally do the right thing
and deplatform the inciter-in-chief before another person is killed
or another cherished piece of our democracy is violated."
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt spoke out in
favor of the ban on Mr. Trump's personal account, tweeting:
"Excellent step by @Twitter, taking the necessary action that
#StopHateforProfit demanded. A fitting end to a legacy of spewing
hate and vitriol. President Trump incited the violent riots at the
Capitol using social media & paid the price.
Twitter's move along with those by Google and Apple against
Parler aroused fresh ire on the right.
Launched in 2018, Parler has billed itself as an alternative to
larger social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, touting its
embrace of free speech and lack of content recommendation. The
platform's popularity increased sharply in recent months though
remains far smaller than its major rivals.
Mr. Matze said that Parler believes its existing rules against
incitements to violence meet Apple's standards and that the company
is confident that "we can retain our values and make Apple happy
Nonetheless, Mr. Matze said, he was nervous "because the text in
their messaging was fairly confrontational."
Catherine Lucey, Jeff Horwitz and Tim Higgins contributed to
Write to Sarah E. Needleman at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 08, 2021 21:39 ET (02:39 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.