Twitch, the livestreaming platform, said Monday it was suspending President Donald Trump’s channel for “hateful conduct,” in what appeared to be the first deliberate suspension of one of Trump’s social media accounts.
The site, which is owned by Amazon, said two recent streams on Trump’s channel violated its rules. One stream was of a rebroadcasted 2015 campaign event in which Trump made comments about Mexico sending drugs, crime and rapists over the border. The other was of his recent rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he talked about a “very tough hombre” breaking into a woman’s house at 1 a.m.
“Hateful conduct is not allowed on Twitch,” a Twitch spokesperson said in a statement. “In line with our policies, President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed.”
It was unclear how long the suspension would last.
With its move, Twitch went further than other social media platforms. In recent months, some tech companies have become more proactive in handling speech issues by Trump and his supporters. Twitter began adding labels to some of the president’s tweets; Snap has said it will stop promoting Trump’s Snapchat account; and Reddit on Monday said it would ban “The_Donald” community, which had been a highly influential digital gathering place for Trump’s acolytes.
But unlike those efforts, Twitch directly clamped down on the president himself, temporarily shutting down his ability to post videos on a channel. The only other time Trump had one of his social media accounts suspended was by accident in 2017, when his Twitter account was unexpectedly disabled by a rogue contractor who was leaving Twitter that day.
One company that has maintained it does not want to police free speech is Facebook. Last week, the social network announced it would expand its hate speech policies and label posts from political figures who violate rules as “newsworthy.” But the labels, which do not explain what is inaccurate or hateful about a post, fall short of what Twitter and other companies have done.
Twitch’s suspension of Trump comes as the platform, which is popular with gamers, is under fire for other instances of hateful rhetoric. Streamers have accused it of allowing racist and sexist comments to thrive unchecked, and the company said last week it would permanently suspend a handful of users after a torrent of sexual harassment and assault allegations rocked the video game industry.
Cindy Otis, a disinformation expert and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, said Twitch’s suspension of the president might pressure other companies to ratchet up their actions.
“You have to sort of wonder, if smaller platforms start taking more aggressive or harder action on what they consider harmful content or on the disinformation side — will that end up pressuring the larger platforms to do more as well?” Otis asked.
But, she added, “if stuff gets removed from one platform, it simply migrates to another.”
The actions are likely to revive charges by conservatives that social media platforms are suppressing and censoring their speech. Whitney Phillips, who researches disinformation at Syracuse University, said the moves were “definitely going to be weaponizable by people on the far right who can point to this” and say that online platforms were biased against conservatives.
Some backlash began Monday after YouTube announced it was barring six channels for violating its hate speech policies, including one by Stefan Molyneux, a podcaster and internet commentator who has discussed his far-right politics. Far-right YouTubers quickly accused the Google-owned site of bias.
Molyneux, who had nearly 1 million YouTube subscribers and more than 300 million video views on the platform since starting his channel more than a decade ago, said on Twitter that YouTube had “just suspended the largest philosophy conversation the world has ever known.”
The Trump campaign did not directly address the actions by Twitch and Reddit on Monday. Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for Trump’s reelection campaign, said in a statement that people should download the Trump campaign app or text the campaign’s automated number to “hear directly from the president.”
Twitch is not one of Trump’s top social media channels. His channel began streaming on the service in October, amassing more than 125,000 followers and 113 streams, compared with his more than 83 million followers on Twitter.
The platform did not address whether any of Trump’s other past streams had violated its rules. It said it told Trump’s campaign last year that it did not “make exceptions for political or newsworthy content” that violated its guidelines.
By Monday afternoon, the URL for Trump’s Twitch channel displayed a message: “That content is unavailable.”