On Wednesday, after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol and blocked Congress from counting the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden, President Donald Trump called for supporters to “go home” but repeated his insistence that he won the 2020 election in a “landslide.” Twitter responded by blocking three of Trump’s tweets and locking his account for 12 hours.
“As a result of the unprecedented and ongoing violent situation in Washington, D.C., we have required the removal of three [Donald Trump] Tweets that were posted earlier today for repeated and severe violations of our Civic Integrity policy,” Twitter Safety announced on the platform.
“This means that the account of [Donald Trump] will be locked for 12 hours following the removal of these Tweets. If the Tweets are not removed, the account will remain locked,” the platform added. “Future violations of the Twitter Rules, including our Civic Integrity or Violent Threats policies, will result in permanent suspension of the [Donald Trump] account.”
While Twitter has taken various actions against Trump in the past, this represents a clear escalation. Twitter has flagged Trump tweets for supposed misinformation, but the platform has generally allowed the president’s tweets to remain up because they serve a public purpose.
In this case, Twitter decided Trump’s tweets were beyond the pale. While I supported Trump in 2020 and opposed many of Twitter’s actions against Trump, I must admit they have a point here. While the president never encouraged his supporters to break into the U.S. Capitol, his exaggerated rhetoric about Democrats stealing a “landslide” election enflamed his base. When the pro-Trump protesters broke into the Capitol on Wednesday, Trump doubled down on those claims — even while he encouraged his supporters to go home.
In the video Twitter removed, Trump told the people who broke into the Capitol, “we love you, you’re very special.” In one of the tweets Twitter removed, Trump said of the break-in, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Twitter was entirely wrong to flag Trump’s tweets before the election when the president warned about the dangers of mail-in voting. Twitter also egregiously suppressed The New York Post‘s Hunter Biden story, which likely helped Biden win the election.
Twitter’s decision makes more sense in this case.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.