Twitter shares fell 7% following its decision to permanently ban outgoing US president Donald Trump on Friday. The ban, which has attracted divided uproar globally since it came into effect, is stoking another social media regulatory debate which has brought its bearing on Twitter stocks.
The social media app announced the decision to ban Trump in a blog post on Friday, saying his tweets breach its policies as they are liable to incite further violence.
“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them – we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” the blog post said.
Twitter had earlier restricted Trump’s account for 12 hours after the US capitol was invaded on January 6 by his supporters aiming to halt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College votes.
Trump had made a video condemning the insurrection but turned around as soon the restriction on his account was lifted to tweet in support of the rioters.
“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 after, he tweeted again: “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the inauguration on January 20th.”
Twitter said it assessed the ‘language’ in these tweets against its Glorification of Violence policy, after reading them 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 his account in recent weeks. The assessment led to the determination that Trump’s further tweets could “encourage and inspire” people to “replicate the criminal acts” that took place at the US Capitol on January 6.
Facebook was the first to announce indefinite suspension of Trump’s account, until at least, after the January 20th inauguration.
The social media platforms have faced a moment of watershed arising from conflicting pressures on one hand to restrict misinformation and hate speech, and on the other, defend free speech. Caught across a divided throng leaning on each side of reason, the big tech companies appear to have decided not spare anyone, in the moral fight to tame hate speech.
Apple, Amazon and Google have removed Parler, a pro-GOP communication platform from their services, forcing it to go offline.
Twitter was Trump’s megaphone for heralding conspiracy theories, amplifying attacks on his rivals and provoking other nations during his four-year rule, due to his fight with mainstream media. Now the ban has taken his voice away in his final days in office.
Miraband analyst Neil Campling said the ban shows Twitter is making editorial decisions, and opens the door to more regulation of social media under the next administration.
“In the U.S., it’s about how are these companies being regulated, are they regulated, should they be regulated?” Campling said by phone, adding that “Trump is the most popular character on the platform.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the decision “problematic” and said via his spokesman Steffen Seibert that operators of social media platforms bear great responsibility for political communication not being poisoned by hatred, by lies and incitement to violence.
EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said by blocking Trump’s accounts, social media companies had finally recognized their responsibility, duty and means to prevent the spread of illegal viral content.
Following the ban, Trump had used the official account of President of United States @POTUS, which has about 33 million followers to voice his concern about Twitter once again.
“As I have been saying for a long time, Twitter has gone further and further in banning free speech, and tonight, Twitter employees have coordinated with the Democrats and the Radical Left in removing my account from their platform, to silence me,” he said, adding that he will do something about it.
Trump had last year moved to ban Twitter for affixing notice on one of his claims about COVID-19, and has been calling on the Congress to repeal section 230 that will help hold social media platforms more accountable.
Twitter has maintained that it suspended Trump’s account not to silence dissent but to prevent him from instigating further violence that will undermine American democracy and result in further harm. Until now, the Capitol has never been attacked since the invasion of the British on August 24, 1814.