Twitter Temporarily Locks Trump's Account

Jan 6, 2021
Originally published on January 6, 2021 8:20 pm
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In the wake of the armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol today - still so strange to say those words out loud - Twitter has removed three of President Trump's tweets. And they have locked him out of his account for 12 hours. Twitter is threatening further suspensions if Trump continues to violate its rules. And that is a big blow for the president, of course, whose major means of communication with the public is Twitter. Let me turn now to NPR tech correspondent Bobby Allyn.

Hey, Bobby.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Hey, Bobby. Little bit of a delay on the line, but let's forge ahead. What exactly was in Trump's tweets today? Just remind us what he was tweeting that drew this response from Twitter.

ALLYN: Yeah. So the one that I think got the most attention was a video address that Trump made. And this came after hours and hours of Trump saying nothing, just as some of his reporter - some of his supporters, you know, violently swarmed the Capitol; you know, who were being basically, you know, directed at Trump over his concerns over the, you know, result of the election. And in Trump's video address, he did tell them to go home, but he also, you know, said that he loved them. And he also stoked falsehoods about the result of the election. And this is something that he has been doing for months in the lead-up to the November election.

But this video, along with two other tweets that Trump sent today, were deemed to be violations of Twitter's rules. And instead of just slapping a warning label on it - which Twitter historically has done dozens and dozens of times - they took the unprecedented step of deleting them completely, locking down Twitter's account and also saying, President Trump, if you don't stop breaking the rules, we're going to kick you off Twitter forever.

KELLY: Yeah. I was just about to ask if they've ever done anything like this again - this 12-hour lockout. It sounds like no. I want to note the video has also now been removed from Facebook and YouTube. I should note Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, are financial supporters of NPR. What are these platforms saying about why they are doing this, what the thinking is and now?

ALLYN: Yeah. So what we often see in these cases, Mary Louise, is one platform will come out and do something bold, and then the rest will follow. And that is what happened here. Facebook took down the video. Then YouTube took down the video. Meanwhile, Twitter had the video up, but they were sort of limiting its spread. Soon enough, they took down the video as well.

And again, as the platforms were trying to decide whether or not they should keep this up, they were weighing a lot of things. They were - you know, typically, presidents had a lot of leeway to say what they want because there was an exception to the rules since whatever they said was considered newsworthy. There was sort of a world leaders exception to some of the rules and guidelines on Twitter.

KELLY: Right.

ALLYN: So they were trying to stick by that. But they were also, you know, looking at how extraordinary the violent scenes that were unfolding on the capital were and said, you know, this video has the potential of worsening some of that violence. And because of that, they said - you know, all the platforms said together, essentially, we have to take this down. This could really be harmful.

KELLY: And what kind of reaction are you seeing so far to this? Do people think it is enough to take it down, to maybe locking him out of accounts for a certain period of time?

ALLYN: Yeah. I mean, calls for the platforms to remove Trump have really been coming for many years. I mean, as we know, the president has used Twitter, you know, to, you know, threaten his enemies, to even go after, you know, everyday citizens, to stoke all sorts of conspiracy theories. And this, you know, push to so-call de-platform the president has been building and building and building. So I think people who have been calling for it say, yes, you should put him on notice, but maybe you should just ban him now because there are plenty examples in which Trump has gone to Twitter, abused the rules and has suffered no consequences.

KELLY: Right.

ALLYN: So this is a long time coming.

KELLY: All right. NPR's Bobby Allyn reporting.

Thank you, Bobby.

ALLYN: Thanks, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.