Donald Trump’s brief suspension from Twitter has come to an end, after the outgoing president deleted three tweets the social network says violated its “civic integrity policy”.
Trump did not immediately return to the social network as his ban was lifted, at 7am Washington time. Just a few hours earlier, his deputy chief of staff, Dan Scavino, had shared on his behalf a short statement committing to an “orderly transition” of power – albeit maintaining that he “totally disagrees with the outcome of the election”.
On Facebook, Trump’s suspension for the same posts will last a full 24 hours, the social network said.
The 12-hour suspension, the first the president has faced in his four-year term of office, was derided by many as not being severe enough for the harm inflicted by the tweets, which appeared to support and encourage the far-right mob that stormed the US Capitol building.
“Facebook, Twitter and YouTube must terminate Donald Trump’s social media accounts,” said Eric Naing, media relations officer for American civil liberties group Muslim Advocates. “After today’s mob violence inside the US Capitol, it is clear that the president’s social media accounts are the world’s most prominent organizing tool for violent white nationalists. For years, social media companies have done little or nothing at all while President Trump used their platforms to foment violence, spread hate and put people’s lives in danger – all in clear violation of the companies’ policies.”
“Weak warning labels or a policy of selectively deleting certain posts after the damage has been done will do little to stem the fire hose of hate, violence, conspiracy theories and white nationalism that comes from the president’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts. What we saw today was not the beginning of this violence and it will not be the end. The only way to protect the public is to permanently terminate Donald Trump’s social media accounts.”
Calls to go further than simply labelling or restricting posts also had some unlikely supporters. Alex Stamos, the former head of information security at Facebook and now a Stanford professor working on technology and civil liberties issues, said that the events of Wednesday should help tech companies realise a line had been crossed.
“Twitter and Facebook have to cut him off,” Stamos tweeted. “There are no legitimate equities left and labelling won’t do it. The last reason to keep Trump’s account up was the possibility that he would try to put the genie back in the bottle but as many expected, that is impossible for him.
“There will always be the alt-sites and peer-to-peer, but at least the damage he does would be more contained.”
If Trump does continue to violate Twitter rules to the point of being banned from the site, a community of alternative social networks already exists to provide him with an alternative platform.
On Parler, a Twitter clone built to allow users to “speak freely” and populated largely by the far-right, a new account claiming to be the president gained more than 13,000 followers in a matter of hours before being taken private on the website.
The president already has a “verified account” on another social network, Gab, with a similar focus, but that account is currently no more than a shell which reposts tweets from Twitter. It is not clear that it is run by the president’s team, rather than Gab itself.