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Why did Twitter temporarily block Donald Trump's account? Social media platform warns of permanent ban

The president's relationship with the social media giant has plummeted over the months following his controversial claims that have often been restricted
Twitter and President Donald Trump (Getty Images)
Twitter and President Donald Trump (Getty Images)

Social media giant Twitter’s sour relation with President Donald Trump is not unknown. In the past, the president, who uses the platform frequently, has also slammed it for filtering his remarks and even went to the extent of accusing it of meddling in the 2020 presidential election. Trump also signed an executive order in May last year eyeing government regulation on social media platforms after Twitter labeled his tweets as misleading.

Now, the tech giant has taken an extreme step against the president who has less than two weeks left in office. On Wednesday, January 6, it locked Trump’s account for 12 hours and also warned for the first time that it may suspend it forever. Twitter said the action to lock the mercurial leader’s account reflected his violation of its rules.

“We have required the removal of three @realDonaldTrump Tweets that were posted earlier today for repeated and severe violations of our Civic Integrity Policy,” Twitter said, adding: “This means that the account of @realDonaldTrump will be locked for 12 hours following the removal of these Tweets. If the Tweets are not removed, the account will remain locked.”


This tweet was pinned on the Twitter Safety account.


It also said that “future violations... will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account”.


The move, which came as Trump continued with his rant on "election fraud" and the public protest at the Capitol that turned dangerous, marked a major escalation by the microblogging site against President Trump and is seen as a response to the demand by civil rights groups to kick the politician out of the platform.

The president’s tweeting habits, which some people even call bizarre, have been a major talking point in America’s political circles. Trump uses Twitter for diverse reasons: from announcing policies to criticizing people since he has a not-so-great relation with the mainstream media. 

Trump has tested social media policies earlier as well

The incumbent president has time and again tested the policies of social media networks but has been let off because of his high profile. Twitter has restricted his controversial claims but did not remove them (for example, his tweet “when looting starts, shooting starts” in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis last May was restricted on grounds of glorifying violence).

Twitter, on that occasion, cited a rule that treats statements issued by world leaders as noteworthy. But the social media giant has now said that the policy is no longer a top priority for it. “Our public interest policy — which has guided our enforcement action in this area for years — ends where we believe the risk of harm is higher and/or more severe,” it said after locking Trump’s account.


Trump set to lose Twitter privilege

Trump is also set to lose his privilege on Twitter once Joe Biden takes over the presidency from him on January 20. According to a report in The Verge that came out just days after his defeat in the November 3 election, Twitter confirmed that Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account will be subject to the same rules as any other user after his tenure at the White House ends. 

Twitter has special policies for world leaders and other officials who leave rule-breaking content online if there is “a clear public interest value to keeping the tweet on the service.” It was in 2019 that Twitter’s public interest policy was formalized and a rule that has been informally in place for some time was codified. 

“Twitter’s approach to world leaders, candidates and public officials is based on the principle that people should be able to choose to see what their leaders are saying with clear context. This means that we may apply warnings and labels, and limit engagement to certain tweets. This policy framework applies to current world leaders and candidates for office, and not private citizens when they no longer hold these positions,” The Verge quoted a Twitter spokesperson as saying. 

Twitter and Facebook have posted warning tags on many of the incumbent president’s posts since the night of the election as Trump continued his tirade against "voter fraud" saying the election was stolen from him. 

This is not the first time, however, that Twitter has locked Trump’s account. In October last year, it did the same after the president shared the email address of a columnist. Trump posted a tweet praising and quoting a column in the New York Post by journalist Miranda Devine in which the former was applauded for his battle with coronavirus after he was diagnosed with Covid-19. The column praised Trump saying he was committed to his duties as the president. 

Earlier in August, Twitter made a similar move against the official account of the Trump campaign till it removed a video showing the president making the controversial claim that children were “almost immune” from Covid-19.