By Sarah E. Needleman
Twitter Inc. banned President Trump's personal account, citing
the risk of further incitement of violence and closing off one of
his main communication tools following the attack on the U.S.
Capitol by a mob of his followers.
Twitter's move late Friday capped two days of sharply escalating
action by social-media companies in the wake of the riot that left
five people dead in Washington, D.C., and fueled pressure on the
platforms to do more to prevent additional violence.
Facebook Inc., which announced a temporary suspension of Mr.
Trump after the riot, said Thursday that it would extend that
action indefinitely -- and at least through the end of Mr. Trump's
term. And late Friday Alphabet Inc.'s Google suspended from its app
store the social-media app Parler, which some Trump supporters and
other conservatives had flocked to over the past year, saying the
service had violated its policies. Apple Inc. threatened to do the
Twitter also had initially suspended Mr. Trump from posting on a
temporary basis that Wednesday night, saying his tweets had
violated its policies and that further breaches could result in a
permanent ban. The social-media company allowed him to resume
posting on Thursday, and many critics of the president called on it
to take more lasting action.
"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 Friday in a blog post.
A few hours later, 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!"
Mr. Trump won more than 74 million votes, seven million less
than Joe Biden received.
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.
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.
Google said it acted against Parler 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 representative said.
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.
In recent years, Apple and Google have also shown a willingness
in the U.S. to pull content from far-right creators deemed
controversial, pulling Infowars podcasts in 2018 and Gab AI Inc., a
social-media app, in 2017.
Kate Klonick, an assistant law professor at St. John's
University who studies content moderation, said that Apple's move
reflected its longstanding power over what apps people can readily
put on their phones.
"Apple decides what platforms and applications can and cannot
exist, and it does so without accountability or transparency," she
said. "If this is a moment for people to think about how much
control Apple has over the information ecosystem, that's a good
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'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 on Friday also suspended accounts related to Mr. Trump,
including those of his campaign and one of its senior officials.
Earlier in the day the company 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.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt praised Twitter's
ban on Mr. Trump's personal account, saying in a tweet that it was
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. #BanTrumpSaveDemocracy"
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. The company is
confident that "we can retain our values and make Apple happy
quickly," he said, adding that "coordinating riots, violence and
rebellions have no place on social media."
Nonetheless, Mr. Matze said, he was nervous "because the text in
their messaging was fairly confrontational." He blamed politically
motivated groups for unfairly targeting Parler. "They want to
eliminate free speech and their political opponents," he said.
Catherine Lucey, Jeff Horwitz and Tim Higgins contributed to
Write to Sarah E. Needleman at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 09, 2021 00:02 ET (05:02 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.