The sitting president, Donald J. Trump is expected to remain in office until January 20th unless he is removed through impeachment or the invocation of the 25th Amendment. The president has been an active user of the social media website Twitter for years and used the website extensively during his administration.
Over the last four years, Trump has used the website to communicate directly with the public, at times even making official presidential announcements on it. He has tweeted his position on primaries, commented on legislation, and used the platform to build support for his political agenda. In many ways, his usage of the website is unprecedented for a president. While other presidents, primarily former president Barack Obama, have used the website to communicate with constituents, he is the first president to use it as extensively as he has.
According to Twitter, however, he has also used the platform in ways that the company considers irresponsible. Many commentators – including Twitter itself – have placed the blame for the violent January 6th Capitol protests on the president and his rhetoric. On January 8th, two days after the protest, Twitter announced that President Trump was permanently banned from the social media platform.
Shortly after his ban, the official Twitter account tweeted that they have “permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” On the company’s official blog, they cite the Twitter Terms of Service contract’s policy against the “glorification of violence.”
This is yet another escalation in the years-long conflict between the President and large technology firms. Following the protest, several other social media platforms (including Facebook and Instagram) followed suit, banning Trump from using their platforms as well. Apple and Google, meanwhile, have suspended the unmoderated Twitter alternative Parler from their app stores.
The President believes that these actions constitute censorship and run counter to the values of liberal democracy and free speech.
In December, Trump came into conflict with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress over his veto of a major defense spending bill. While several reasons were given for this veto, he claims that it was in part because the bill did not repeal Section 230, a legal rule that prevents social media companies from being held legally liable for the content that their users share. In a rare show of bipartisanship, both chambers of Congress voted to override the veto and successfully passed the defense spending bill.
While the President’s term is coming to an end, the conflict between big tech and America’s conservative movement will likely persist. Republic politicians such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley have declared large technology firms to be, in Senator Cruz’s words, “the single greatest threat to free speech.”
More information on Twitter’s decision to ban the President from their platform can be found here.