Too little, too late
Trump’s Twitter account—which had 89 million followers before it was shuttered--has long been a venue for impulsive policy announcements, 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 a number of officials on Twitter—the latest being his Defense secretary--and his posts, like his speeches at rallies, are a torrent of misinformation. But Twitter has long given Trump and other world leaders a pass from its rules against personal attacks, hate speech and outright lies—until last week’s assault on the US Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters composed of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and far-right groups, militiamen and fringe conspiracy theorists—egged on by none other than the US president. After these thugs overran and briefly occupied the seat of the US Congress, Facebook suspended Trump’s account through Jan. 20 and possibly indefinitely, while Twitter merely suspended his account for 12 hours after he posted a video that repeated false claims of election fraud and praised the rioters who stormed the US Capitol. But on Friday, Twitter made the ban permanent, saying his recent tweets amounted to a glorification of violence when read in the context of the Capitol riot and plans circulating online for more armed protests around the inauguration of the man who beat him in the November election, President-elect Joe Biden. Twitter also shut down his campaign account shortly after it sent out a tweet with a “statement from President Trump” accusing Twitter of “banning free speech” and coordinating with “the Democrats and the Radical Left” to silence him. The social media platform also deleted new tweets posted by Trump on the official government account, and added that accounts used by Trump to try to get around the ban could face permanent suspension as well under its “ban evasion” policies. The unprecedented move by Twitter—too little, too late, some critics felt—still triggered cries of censorship. “We are living Orwell’s 1984. Free-speech no longer exists in America. It died with big tech and what’s left is only there for a chosen few,” tweeted Trump’s son, Donald Jr.