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 same.

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 account.

"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 thing."

Other social-media companies placed indefinite bans on Mr. Trump this week, including Snapchat parent Snap Inc. and 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 this article.

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 09, 2021 00:02 ET (05:02 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.