January 6th, 2021, a day expected to be filled with ceremony and fanfare as Congress certifies the result of the 2020 election, will now be regarded as one of the darkest and most destructive in America’s history. The attacks on the Capitol by a group of Trump’s supporters, provoked by the President himself, was an attack on an American principal value: democracy. Donald Trump’s actions in initiating the violence carried out by his supporters through his social media prominence led websites like Facebook and Twitter to block his account. These actions were justified because of Donald Trump’s misuse of his social media stature, which involved promoting conspiracy theories, spreading misinformation and often posing threats. Allowing his account on Twitter to continue running threatened the future of American politics and would incite Trump’s supporters to further continue their violence. An increased nationalistic support for Donald Trump’s agenda and twitter usage would create an increasingly divided America with Trump supporters powered by the President’s social media stature, and it would disregard America’s democratic values.
Leading up to and following the election, Donald Trump has used twitter to post numerous claims of voter fraud and rigged elections. Though he hardly provided evidence to support his accusations, he successfully riled up his supporters and influenced their beliefs. Trump’s use of Twitter seemed to pose as a distraction from more major issues covered by the media, for example in response to the growing spread of COVID-19, Trump tweeted about the “Obamagate” conspiracy theory, or when the press reported Trump University’s $25m settlement, Trump tweeted about the Hamilton play controversy. While initially, it was thought that Trump’s distractions led to more public interest in the Hamilton Controversy than the Trump University settlement, it’s been later found that Donald Trump’s tweets deliberately divert media sources, such as the New York Times and ABC News, from focusing on issues that can be harmful to him. An example with the Mueller investigation found that increased media coverage about this investigation led to Trump tweeting more about unrelated issues. While this hasn’t been the case for every potentially threatening topic for Trump, it reflects a common political strategy that influences the public and the media on the issues to focus upon, thus heightening his power. Trump’s use of twitter aided him with this strategy in that he can directly influence the public through his immediate access to social media. This may lead future leaders to engage in similar behavior to steer the media narrative in their benefit.
On Friday January 8th 2021, Twitter permanently suspended the account @realDonaldTrump to prevent “the risk of further incitement of violence”. In a blog posted by Twitter Inc., they explained how their public interest framework, which allows the public to hear directly from world leaders and officials is built upon a principle which Trump has violated. In an overview, Twitter states the specific policy violations that Trump has committed. First mentioned is President Trump’s tweet from January 8th 2021:
“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
Shortly after, Trump then tweeted:
“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
In the blog, Twitter stated that in the context of recent events, especially the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, the President’s words can be used to incite violence, directly violating the Glorification of Violence policy. They noted that these two tweets of the President’s could “encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021”, and Twitter reported that there were multiple indicators of this doing so.
With Donald Trump’s supporters clearly outraged by the banning of his accounts, they will certainly take further action to bring back the platforms the president once had. As Donald Trump’s twitter has been suspended, he has very limited methods of communicating with the public, thus limiting his potential of stopping the democratic proceedings of handing the presidency over to Joe Biden. Donald Trump has seemingly created a personality cult over his past four years of presidency by riling up the nationalistic support of his followers, and it is highly unlikely that Trump’s supporters will see Joe Biden’s inauguration as the end of Donald Trump’s reign.