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Twitter Locks Trump's Account, Warns Of 'Permanent Suspension' If Violations Continue

Twitter on Wednesday removed three of President Trump's tweets over violations of its policies and warned that Trump's account could be kicked off the platform if he continues to break the rules.
Twitter on Wednesday removed three of President Trump's tweets over violations of its policies and warned that Trump's account could be kicked off the platform if he continues to break the rules.

Twitter on Wednesday put President Trump on notice: If he does not stop breaking the platform's rules, he will be permanently banned.

The stern warning followed another step never before taken by Twitter: It locked Trump out of his account for 12 hours after the removal of three tweets that the company said were a "severe violation" of Twitter's rules.

Once Trump's time-out expires on Twitter, the company said it may boot the president off the platform for good if his sharing of election-relation disinformation and glorifications of violence continue.

Facebook deleted the same video Twitter acted on and blocked Trump's account from sharing messages for 24 hours, but the social network did not say it was considering a permanent suspension of Trump.

Among the tweets that Twitter removed from public view was a video addressed to the mob that violently swarmed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. In the video, Trump said he loved those supporters, even as he told them to go home. He also fanned conspiracy theories that the presidential election was stolen from him.

In the two other tweets removed, Trump falsely suggested he had won the presidential election.

Twitter, taking the boldest enforcement action to date against Trump, has faced months of accusations that it has not done enough to limit the spread of Trump's groundless attacks on the democratic election he lost and incitements of violence sent to his millions of followers.

The social media platform has slapped warning labels on dozens of Trump's tweets to limit the spread, in addition to other steps taken to prevent Trump messages laced with falsehoods from going viral. But many onlookers say Twitter has been ineffective in curbing the reach of Trump's misleading and incendiary material.

"As someone who has served on your Trust and Safety Board since its inception and counseled you since 2009, time is now to suspend President Trump's account," said Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Virginia, in a tweet. "He has deliberately incited violence, causing mayhem with his lies and threats."

Many world leaders, including Trump, have enjoyed more freedom than ordinary users to share messages on Facebook and Twitter, since the platforms consider their comments political speech that has public value. Yet critics say that rule has enabled Trump to turn conspiracies viral, most recently Trump's repeated airing of baseless allegations about the November election.

In indicating that Trump could soon be banished from the platform, Twitter may be re-examining how that rule applies to Trump.

On Wednesday, the melee on the Capitol drew calls from Democratic lawmakers and civil rights advocates for Trump to be kicked off Twitter and Facebook over a long pattern of abusing the platforms.

"Trump is inciting violence and spreading dangerous misinformation that is undermining our democracy and our way of life. Social media continues to amplify his anti-democratic rhetoric," said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who added that Twitter and Facebook should "remove Trump from their platforms."

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said the insurrection on the Capitol staged by some of Trump's most ardent supporters was the direct result of fear and disinformation that has been supercharged by social media companies.

"Social media companies should suspend his accounts ASAP as they would do for anyone else advocating disinformation and promoting violence," Greenblatt said. "It's time."

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Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.
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