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Twitter bans Trump, citing risk of violent incitement

TALI ARBEL
Associated Press
President Trump's final Tweet read, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

Twitter banned President Donald Trump's account Friday, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence" following the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

Twitter has long given Trump and other world leaders broad exemptions from its rules against personal attacks, hate speech and other behaviors. But in a detailed explanation posted on its blog Friday, the company said recent Trump tweets amounted to glorification of violence when read in the context of the Capitol riot and plans circulating online for future armed protests around the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The social platform has been under growing pressure to take further action against Trump following the Wednesday violence. On Wednesday, Facebook suspended Trump's account through Jan. 20 and possibly indefinitely. Twitter merely suspended Trump's account for 12 hours after he posted a video that repeated false claims about election fraud and praised the rioters who stormed the Capitol.

Twitter's move deprives Trump of a potent tool he has used to communicate directly with the American people for more than a decade. He has used Twitter to announce policy changes, challenge opponents, insult enemies, praise his allies and himself — and to flirt with inciting violence and denounce targets of his ire in all-caps missives.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The official account for the President of the United States, @potus, remains live.

In the Trump tweets cited by Twitter, Trump stated that he will not be attending the inauguration and referred to his supporters as “American Patriots,” saying they will have “a GIANT VOICE long into the future.” Twitter said these statements “are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so.”

The company said that plans for future armed protests were already circulating online, including a proposed follow-up attack on the U.S. Capitol and state capitol buildings on Jan. 17.

Twitter said its policy enables world leaders to speak to the public, but that these accounts “are not above our rules entirely” and can’t use Twitter to incite violence. Trump had roughly 89 million followers.

Trump’s Twitter persona has long functioned as a mix of policy announcements -- often out of the blue; complaints about the media; disparagement of women, minorities and his perceived enemies; and praise for his supporters, replete with exclamation marks, all-caps, and one-word declarations such as “Sad!”

He has fired numerous officials on Twitter and his posts, like his speeches at rallies, are a torrent of misinformation.

Jonathan Greenblatt, who heads the Anti-Defamation League, said Friday that banning Trump was an “excellent step” and “a fitting end to a legacy of spewing hate and vitriol." The ADL was part of a coalition of civil rights and advocacy groups on Friday calling for Twitter to ban Trump’s account.

On Friday, Twitter also permanently banned two Trump loyalists — former national security adviser Michael Flynn and attorney Sidney Powell — as part of a broader purge of accounts promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory. Twitter said it will take action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm.

“Given the renewed potential for violence surrounding this type of behavior in the coming days, we will permanently suspend accounts that are solely dedicated to sharing QAnon content,” Twitter said in an emailed statement. The company also said Trump attorney Lin Wood was permanently suspended Tuesday for violating its rules, but provided no additional details.

Social media companies have been under intensified pressure to crack down on hate speech since a violent mob egged on by Trump stormed the Capitol. Dozens of QAnon social media accounts were hyping up Trump's Jan. 6 rally in the heart of Washington, expressing hope that it could lead to the overturn of the election results.

Some federal lawmakers and several celebrities had also called on Twitter and Facebook to ban Trump.

Other tech companies also acted against Trump's accounts, citing threats of violence. Snapchat locked Trump’s account “indefinitely.” Twitch, the live-streaming site owned by Amazon and used by Trump’s campaign to stream speeches, disabled Trump’s account until he leaves office. E-commerce company Shopify shut down two online Trump memorabilia stores.

YouTube announced more general changes that will penalize accounts spreading misinformation about voter fraud in the 2020 election, with repeat offenders facing permanent removal. Reddit on Friday banned a forum for Trump supporters, called “donaldtrump."