Twitter is set to restore access to President Donald Trump’s account on Thursday morning, twelve hours after the tech giant blocked him for blasting out a series of falsehoods as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
The penalty marked the most severe punishment Twitter has ever meted out to Trump, who has used his vast online reach to spread a stream of falsehoods over the past four years – prompting criticism that the company and its Silicon Valley peers should have done more, and sooner, to stop him from stoking real-world tensions.
Twitter punished Trump over a series of tweets Wednesday that sought to cast doubt over the 2020 presidential race. One included a video in which Trump spread disinformation about the election’s outcome, even as he told rioters to leave the House and Senate at a time when lawmakers had started the process of certifying Joseph Biden as the next president. Another tweet attributed the violent mob’s actions to the widely disproved claim that votes had been “stripped away from great patriots.”
Twitter required Trump to delete the tweets to obtain access to his account, but it made clear it plans to escalate its enforcement efforts and suspend the president permanently if he continues to break its rules.
Facebook and its photo-sharing service, Instagram, also suspended Trump this week from posting over 24 hours starting Wednesday evening, and the tech giant joined Twitter and Google-owned YouTube in taking down the president’s earlier video. Facebook also said it would remove harmful content posted by other users promoting similar riots at the U.S. Capitol.
Trump has sought to weaponize social media repeatedly in the months since he lost to Biden in the presidential election, peddling falsehoods that promote the idea that there has been rampant voter fraud. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at times have taken action against Trump, but their attempts to label the president’s tweets as erroneous have not stopped their viral spread – or toned down the sort of political tensions that spilled out into public view this week.
The threat for further violence – and Trump’s history in using social media to spread misinformation – prompted a wide array of critics including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League to call on Silicon Valley to suspend the president outright in the final days of his first and only term. Meanwhile, Trump’s supporters took to alternative social-media platforms, including Parler, to tout their support for the riots and call for further bloodshed.