Trump Banned from Twitter

Hashtag: You're Fired.

Donald Trump has used his Twitter account to increase his celebrity, ultimately winning the Republican nomination and the Presidency itself. Once in office, it remained his primary means of communicating with supporters, chastising enemies, and fomenting anger. All it took was a riot at the Capitol that could have been much worse for the platform to say “Enough.”

The accompany announced the Permanent suspension of @realDonaldTrump last evening, explaining,

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. 

In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action. Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open. 

However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things. We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement. 

What caused them to finally pull the plug?

On January 8, 2021, President Donald J. Trump 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!!!”

Shortly thereafter, the President tweeted:

“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

Due to the ongoing tensions in the United States, and an uptick in the global conversation in regards to the people who violently stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, 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 weeks. After assessing the language in these Tweets against our Glorification of Violence policy, we have determined that these Tweets are in violation of the Glorification of Violence Policy and the user @realDonaldTrump should be immediately permanently suspended from the service.

There’s more at the link but you get the point.

The Associated Press offers a fitting eulogy (“A farewell to @realDonaldTrump, gone after 57,000 tweets“):

@realDonaldTrump, the Twitter feed that grew from the random musings of a reality TV star into the cudgel of an American president, has died. It was not quite 12 years old.

The provocative handle was given birth by a New York real estate tycoon who used it to help him become the 45th U.S. president. It began with a May 4, 2009, tweet promoting Donald Trump’s upcoming appearance on David Letterman’s show.

It died more than 57,000 tweets later, with Trump using some of his final postings on the powerful platform to commiserate with a pro-Trump mob that besieged the halls of Congress in a deadly assault as lawmakers were set to certify his defeat.

The account met its demise when Twitter announced Friday it was pulling the plug permanently on @realDonaldTrump, citing concern that Trump would use it for “further incitement of violence.” Trump retorted that he’d be “building out our own platform in the near future. We will not be SILENCED!”

Trump, a novice politician but seasoned salesman, realized the power of social media in ways that few other politicians did. And he wielded it with never-before-seen power to diminish his opponents, shape elections and mold reality — at least in the eyes of his supporters.

Early on, @realDonaldTrump seemed innocent enough. Its owner, who had prolific experience in marketing casinos, real estate and even Oreos, used the platform mostly to promote his books, media appearances and give friendly plugs to friends.

But as Trump began seriously toying with a White House run, it became a tool to scorch opponents and give shape to his nationalist, “America First” philosophy.

He deployed its venom equally, whether insulting celebrity enemies (Rosie O’Donnell was “crude, rude, obnoxious and dumb”) or or using xenophobia to malign a country (Britain is “trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem”).

There’s quite a bit more but, again, you get the idea.

Facebook, which was in some ways more important for spreading lies and rumors than Twitter, banned him first. And Reddit has been more aggressive, longer. Indeed, Axios catalogs “All the platforms that have banned or restricted Trump so far” and the answer is, pretty much all of them:

The bottom line: Trump is quickly losing access to all the platforms where he once was able to spread his message freely, but groups of his supporters will still be able to gather online.


The platforms have been in an unenviable position. Like it or not, Trump is the President of the United States of America. Blocking him from his preferred platforms from communicating with the American public is a drastic step, indeed, and would certainly invite regulatory scrutiny.

I’ve long argued that, because of their oligopoly, if not monopoly, status on certain types of communication, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others should be thought of as something akin to public utilities. Yes, they’re private companies. But so are the major television and radio networks, which have been regulated since their inception.

It would be problematic, indeed, if our political leaders were banned from participating in the public discourse because of the whims of entrepreneurs whose apps happened to catch on and achieve critical mass.

But, even with a President—perhaps, especially with a President—there have to be limits. Were I running a major news network, I would have stopped carrying his speeches live some time ago. At best, the news value had become limited and, at worst, he was spreading lies, undermining our civil society, and inciting lawlessness. One can argue Twitter waited too long but it’s hard to argue that the risk off cutting a lame duck President off after he has incited rioting outweighs the risk of letting him continue.

Particularly since, at least for now, he still has access to the @POTUS account, from which he continues to rant.

I will say, however, that the manner in which Twitter has carried this out is problematic. That is, I very much hope his old tweets are not hidden from the public view forever. I can understand keeping them offline through the transition but there is substantial public and scholarly interest in having the old tweets available for study.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Media, Social Media, Society, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    I suspect that Twitter will receive a request from the WH for an archive of his tweets, in order to be in compliance with the presidential records act. Though the deliver, if not the request won’t happen till after the inauguration or at the last moments of his presidency.

    Reports were he was in a rage last night. Tee, hee.

    The world will be much quieter going forward.

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    Extremists cause extreme reactions. I’m ambivalent at best. Relieved to see Trump off Twitter, which he’d have used to continue to undermine democracy. But OTOH, that’s a lot of power in the hands of unaccountable people in Silicon Valley.

    It’s important though to recognize that we are where we are because of lies told in equally unaccountable media. Rush Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch built empires of lies and did terrible, long-lasting damage.

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  3. Jen says:

    The ridiculous thing is that this country has a president whose personality/language got him banned. So incendiary that he’s violating the terms of service (which, to be fair, he has for a while).

    A U.S. President so unable to control his base impulses that he got banned. And now Lindsey Graham is tweeting about how the Ayatollah can tweet but the president cannot.

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  4. CSK says:

    Check http://www.trumptwitterarchive.com. All is not lost–literally.

    I wish the AP wouldn’t refer to Trump as “a real estate tycoon.” He’s a bankrupted casino operator from Queens.

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  5. Jay L Gischer says:

    The Ayatollah never tried to overthrow our government. He never sent a bunch of goons to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

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  6. Michael Cain says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I suspect that Twitter will receive a request from the WH for an archive of his tweets, in order to be in compliance with the presidential records act.

    I’m pretty sure the Archivist reminds the head of their legal department regularly about their obligations to preserve the President’s tweets.

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  7. Slugger says:

    There are reports that Mr. Trump is very angry about this. Very angry, but don’t we hear reports that he is angry about something every day? His anger is his default setting. This is the anger of a bully trying to get his way without building a foundation for his cause. I don’t need to hear that he’s angry; he is always angry, and I don’t care.

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  8. Jen says:

    @Jay L Gischer: Exactly. Sen. Graham said “this says a lot about those who run Twitter,” and I’m thinking, no, it says a lot about the US President–he violates the terms of service, and the Ayatollah is *being better behaved.*

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  9. Let me preface by noting that there are some truly complex issues about how platforms like Twitter and Facebook might should be regulated. But that is a conversation for another day.

    I will say that I am amused by the throngs of pro-Trump types upset over a business making a business decision. I thought this was the paradise they wanted: letting the market decide and keeping government out of their lives.

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  10. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I will say that I am amused by the throngs of pro-Trump types upset over a business making a business decision. I thought this was the paradise they wanted: letting the market decide and keeping government out of their lives.

    Seen on Twitter:

    “To anyone complaining about a private media company kicking Trump off their platform:

    Think of Twitter as a Christian bakery and Trump as a gay wedding cake.”

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  11. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Also I can’t find it now, but earlier today I saw a Trump supporter calling for the nationalization of Twitter and Facebook.

    It’s almost as if all the principles these people espoused were actually paper-thin rationalizations that blew away at the first breezes of a wanna-be dictator.

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  12. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You’re assuming that the Trumpkins believe in markets and the independence of private businesses.

    But I do like the framing that @Mikey: references.

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  13. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    The Trumpkins keep raving about Twitter, Facebook, et al “censoring” Trump.
    They obviously don’t understand censorship.

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  14. charon says:

    It’s not just Twitter and Facebook, he has lost his campaign email server also. And, Parler is losing access to Google Play and the Apple app. Steve Bannon also being defenestrated.

    Trump cares more about these than the Jan 6 riot, he is really flipping out over it.

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  15. charon says:

    @charon:

    Narcissist craves attention, cut off from his supply.

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  16. Barry says:

    James: “I will say, however, that the manner in which Twitter has carried this out is problematic. That is, I very much hope his old tweets are not hidden from the public view forever. I can understand keeping them offline through the transition but there is substantial public and scholarly interest in having the old tweets available for study. ”

    The manner in his his account was deleted was only problematic because it happened after several thousands serious violations.

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  17. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I thought this was the paradise they wanted: letting the market decide and keeping government out of their lives.

    I realize you meant that as snark, but those were the principles of the (largely mythical) principled conservatives of yore. We have to deal with the conservatives we’ve got, whose only principle is owning the libs.

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  18. Scott F. says:

    @charon:

    Trump cares more about these than the Jan 6 riot, he is really flipping out over it.

    There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the reporting on his reaction and how he is handling it should tell you everything you need to know about Trump’s understanding of his power.

    In my opinion, Trump’s use of Twitter to bypass the press to directly address his followers has been the most pernicious development of his tenure in office. Having rightist media platforms like Fox has certainly been damaging to the public discourse, but even these platforms have their limits. Trump’s ability to establish his tweets as the singular source of the truth for the Trumpkins (even as the tweets have often contradicted themselves) has allowed him to perpetuate his alternate realities to an extent never before seen.

    Without Twitter, Trump is stripped of his primary weapon of hucksterism. And he knows it.

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  19. CSK says:

    The right-wing forums are raving mad about Trump being banned from Twitter and other platforms. But they’ve been banning anyone who voiced the slightest criticism of Trump since early 2017.

    “Consistency, thou art a jewel.”

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  20. becca says:

    @CSK: or “Do as Daddy says, not as Daddy does.” which applies to gop ideology as well.

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  21. JohnSF says:

    I think the moment chosen was perfect.
    Trump had tweeted his “non-concession concession”

    I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th

    That was about the best that could be hoped for.
    Might as well shut it down at that point.

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  22. Gustopher says:

    @charon:

    Parler is losing access to Google Play and the Apple app.

    AOC calling for that is far more chilling from a 1A perspective than Twitter dumping Trump.

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  23. Andy says:

    The other side of the coin is the symbiotic relationship between Trump on Twitter and the media. An entire cottage industry sprang up in the last four years that churned out articles that regurgitated Trump’s tweets, noted how terrible they were, and then added a click-baity headline. More serious and mainstream journalism also fell prey to this on far too many occasions. One thing I think is underappreciated and under-analyzed is how dependent so much of journalism has become to Twitter.

    And if Google and Apple decide to drop-kick any platform that accepts him (like Parler), then that will be weird for journalism as well.

    Thinking even further ahead, I supposed at some point we could discuss what happens to anti-Trump journalism in general. A lot of news and opinion outlets have done very, very well in the Trump era – it will be interesting to see if they can maintain their audience and subscription base going forward once the primary #resistance target is both out of office and forced to be offline. I bet that a lot of journalists are not thrilled with this decision to ban Trump.

    I’ve long argued that, because of their oligopoly, if not monopoly, status on certain types of communication, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others should be thought of as something akin to public utilities. Yes, they’re private companies. But so are the major television and radio networks, which have been regulated since their inception.

    It would be problematic, indeed, if our political leaders were banned from participating in the public discourse because of the whims of entrepreneurs whose apps happened to catch on and achieve critical mass.

    I agree that if the likes of Twitter are destined to become the de facto public square (and I very much hope that does NOT happen), then yeah, they will probably need regulation and should have to follow actual standards and apply them neutrally as opposed to whatever they are doing now. But I really hope that doesn’t happen. Twitter is a cancerous platform and should not be protected from competition by government regulation. I’d go further and suggest that the business models that social media rely on should not be subsidized in the way they currently are. Anyone who hasn’t seen “The Social Dilemna” should stop reading and watch it now.

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  24. charon says:

    @Gustopher:

    You left off the /s tag.

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  25. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Gustopher:

    Again the Play Store and iTunes are private business that provide ap developers a marketplace for the product and a guarantee to consumers that the ap isn’t nefarious. Apple and Google have every right to maintain certain standards for the aps that are offered as long as those standards are enforced fairly. No 1A issues here. Whether Google and Apple should enjoy this level of market power is a different issue, but its not a 1A issue.

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  26. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Gustopher: Apps are still available for download from the developers web presences. I dont see a violation in principle of what effectively is a content curator deciding some content isn’t in keeping with their terms of service. There are other app store services available to users and once xan always download directly from the developers.

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  27. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Sleeping Dog: And, there are other apps store out there. I actually use one of them. The fact these these issues become conflated with 1A issues confuses me.

    Social Media is not a public square…its a marketing platform with terms of service where people are provided the opportunity to connect and share ideas…in exchange for being marketed to by advertisers. Functionality, its a digital mall…not city hall.

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  28. Jen says:

    And if Google and Apple decide to drop-kick any platform that accepts him

    I don’t think that’s what has happened though, aren’t they suspending Parler for the lack of moderation, which is part of the requirement to offer an app in their respective stores? That’s different, by miles.

    It also means that Parler should have been banned a while ago, and that is more problematic IMHO. Enforce the rules when they are broken, not down the road at some point when it becomes an issue.

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  29. Andy says:

    @Jen:

    It also means that Parler should have been banned a while ago, and that is more problematic IMHO. Enforce the rules when they are broken, not down the road at some point when it becomes an issue.

    Yep, the stated reason that companies make these decisions can be very different from the real reason. The timing of the decision about Parler is likely not a coincidence.

    I don’t particularly care about these decisions that companies make, but publicly-owned companies ought to be required to have more transparency when it comes to these processes and their business practices – and Apple, Google and Twitter are all publicly traded.

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  30. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    On an iPhone, if you want to load an unapproved ap, you need to root the phone, which voids the warranty, deprives you of future OS upgrades, etc, etc. So lack of access to the iTune store for Paler is a significant loss.

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  31. Gustopher says:

    @charon: No sarcasm. AOC is an elected representative. She should be very wary about using the power of her office to tell private businesses to drop anyone — that is literally censorship.

    https://twitter.com/aoc/status/1347679332014161920?s=21

    Apple and Google are doing the right thing. AOC… eh, that’s much more muddled.

    How comfortable are you with government officials saying that their opponents should have their speech limited? I don’t think AOC is necessarily wrong, just that she should be more wary, and there are legitimate 1A issues in her statement that aren’t there when the App Stores ban Parler.

    @Jim Brown 32: You can’t load apps on iOS, other than through the App Store, so your argument doesn’t work for Apple. I think Apple needs to be held to higher scrutiny because of this, actually. They’re right in this case — particularly since there is likely a web version of Parler that people can go to — but they should be held to a higher level of scrutiny.

    In the Apple vs. Fortnite lawsuits, I’m on the game developers side because of the no-side-loading issue.

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  32. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Sleeping Dog: @Gustopher: I thought there were only Patriots commenting in OTB? IOS?!? Only Communists would submit to such freedom restrictions is exchange for seamless interoperability.

    Appunists doesn’t deserve to scroll the touch screens of freedom here in Androidia.

    Yes, our palate of alternative App Stores are laden with malware filled apps…but at least we’re free!

    BTW Im married to an Appunist. We make it work 🙂

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  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mikey:

    It’s almost as if all the principles these people espoused were actually paper-thin rationalizations that blew away at the first breezes of a wanna-be dictator.

    Only “almost?” How about “exactly” and for a significant portion of our collective lifetimes? (But only for the breezes of a wanna-be dictator of whom they approve.)

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  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Sometimes my students and I used to have short discussions on the difference between the right to speak and the necessity of being given an audience. In the current version, I would be noting that the First Amendment guarantees that Congress would make no laws abridging… and noting the Twitter is not owned by Congress, so no First Amendment guarantees apply.

    ETA: Actually, I’d be asking how they apply–class discussion, after all. 😉

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  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @charon: Worse than that; cut off from his supply of free advertising/media for the next grift.

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  36. charon says:

    She should be very wary about using the power of her office to tell private businesses to drop anyone — that is literally censorship.

    @Gustopher:

    The tweet you posted looked to me IMO like expressing an opinion, not censorship. (Giving Apple some idea which way the wind is blowing though).

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  37. CSK says:

    “Hang Mike Pence” is trending on Twitter.

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  38. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Sometimes I think that all these fools care about is the 2nd Amendment. Actually, I KNOW that’s all they care about.

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  39. Gustopher says:

    @charon: People in the public trust — our elected officials, members of the justice department, regulators, etc. — aren’t always free to express personal opinions without it carrying some of the force of their office. As transgressions go, this is minor, but it definitely makes me wince slightly.

    We’ve seen far worse from Donald Trump on a regular basis, and perhaps that is going to change the boundaries of acceptable behavior, but I hope not.

    I’m not a fan of slippery slope arguments, but if we have one side of bad actors definitely trying to shove the thing (what is on the slippery slope that is sliding in that metaphor? It’s never mentioned, is it?) down the slope, I think the good actors need to be careful.

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  40. @Gustopher: AOC asking for Google and Apple to follow their terms of service is not particularly worrisome

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  41. charon says:

    @Gustopher:

    People in the public trust — our elected officials, members of the justice department, regulators, etc. — aren’t always free to express personal opinions without it carrying some of the force of their office.

    For someone high ranking in the executive branch, you have a point. For a very junior House congresscritter, not so much.

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