Twitter spent Friday night playing whack-a-mole with President Donald Trump as he tried to address his supporters on the social media platform through other people's accounts, after his own account received a permanent ban.
Trump had initially tried to relay a message to his followers using the official President of the United States Twitter account, but they were deleted within minutes.
In the four-tweet thread, the president claimed that Twitter was not a network for free speech and said that he was now in talks to set up his own social media platform following his suspension.
Twitter is not the same without President Trump.— Nick Adams (@NickAdamsinUSA) January 9, 2021
The POTUS account, which will be handed over to Joe Biden from Inauguration Day, remains active.
However, the Trump 2020 campaign Twitter account was the next to receive a suspension after it tweeted the president’s message amid increasingly desperate efforts to reach his following.
Digital director for the Trump campaign, Gary Coby, was next on the chopping block after he appeared to change his username to Donald J. Trump and in a tweet, offered the handle over to the president's Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino.
‘@DanScavino texting you my Twitter login … I already updated the profile pic, name, etc.’ the tweet read. ‘Feel free to use!’
Twitter has not commented on the suspensions since the announce the permanent ban on Trump’s account on Friday evening.
Trump had intially had initially appeared to find a way around his permanent Twitter ban by using the @POTUS handle before his tweets were swiftly deleted.
He urged his supporters to 'STAY TUNED!' as he claimed that Twitter is working with 'Radical Left and Dems' to silence him and to silence those who voted for him.
'As I have been saying for a long time, Twitter has gone further and further in banning free speech, and tonight, Twitter employees have coordinated with the Democrats and the Radical Left in removing my account from their platform, to silence me — and YOU, the 75,000,000 great patriots who voted for me,' he wrote.
The president issued a further threat to Twitter by claiming that they would not exist without the 'government's gift of Section 230'.
Trump also claimed that he has 'been negotiating with various other sites' and promised a 'big announcement soon' as he vowed 'We will not be SILENCED!'
'Twitter is not about FREE SPEECH. They are all about promoting a Radical Left platform where some of the most vicious people in the world are allowed to speak freely,' Trump managed to fit in before his tirade was quickly shut down.
Minutes after the tweets were deleted, an official statement was issued to the White House press pool repeating his claims.
Twitter had announced on Friday night it has permanently banned Trump's account, claiming in a blog post that it was due to the risk of 'further incitement to violence', after the president's supporters rioted through the U.S. Captiol on Wednesday.
'After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,' the company wrote.
The account had 88.7million followers, which is nearly half of the company's total base of monetizable daily active users.
Earlier on Friday, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and attorney Sidney Powell - two Trump loyalists - were also permanently banned by Twitter, and the YouTube account for Steve Bannon's 'War Room' podcast was 'terminated for a violation of YouTube's Terms of Service'.
Youtube had warned earlier this week that it would ban accounts that continued to spread misinformation about voter fraud.
Discord also announced Friday that it has banned the server The Donald which was connected the TheDonald dot Win and the Donald subreddit.
Facebook and Instagram had already banned the president's account 'at least' until his term is over on January 20, if not indefinitely.
Donald Trump Jr. immediately spoke out about the ban, taking to his own Twitter account to claim that 'free-speech no longer exists in America'.
'We are living Orwell's 1984,' he fumed. 'It died with big tech and what's left is only there for a chosen few. This is absolute insanity!'
'So the ayatollah, and numerous other dictatorial regimes can have Twitter accounts with no issue despite threatening genocide to entire countries and killing homosexuals etc... but The President of the United States should be permanently suspended,' he added in a second tweet. 'Mao would be proud.'
Twitter has long given Trump and other world leaders broad exemptions from its rules against personal attacks, hate speech and other behaviours.
But in its lengthy statement the company said recent Trump tweets amounted to glorification of violence when read in the context of the Capitol riot and plans circulating online for future armed protests around the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Twitter said it made the decision after deeming that two Trump tweets from Friday were in breach of its Glorification of Violence policy.
The first tweet read: '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!!!'
In the second called out by Twitter, the president wrote that he would not be attending Joe Biden's inauguration.
Twitter claimed that the tweets had to be 'read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President's statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent weeks'.
The company said that Trump was guilty of the glorification of violence by calling Wednesday's rioters 'American patriots' in the first tweet.
It claimed that the tweet could be interpreted as a sign that Trump agreed that there should be no 'orderly transition' as they warned of information is already circling on the social media platform about 'a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17'.
Twitter also concluded that Trump stating he would not attend the inauguration is him indictating it 'would be a 'safe' target' for his loyalists to attack.
'In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter rules would potentially result in this very course of action,' the statement added.
'Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open.
'However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things.'
The social media platform has been under growing pressure to take further action against Trump following Wednesday's deadly insurrection at the US Capitol that led to the deaths of five people.
Twitter initially suspended the president's account for 12 hours after he posted a video that repeated false claims about election fraud and praised the rioters who stormed the Capitol.
Trump was reportedly livid at being blocked from Twitter, and complained to aides that he could not send messages to his followers, sources told the Daily Beast.
He allegedly claimed his ban was an example of Big Tech firms trying to silence him.
Yet after his 12-hour suspension, Trump resumed tweeting on Thursday. Twitter had said it could take further action as it kept track of 'activity on the ground and statements made off Twitter'.
The company also announced the decision after hundreds of Twitter employees signed a letter to CEO Jack Dorsey asking for the account to be removed as Trump contineud to praise the Capitol rioters.
'Despite our efforts to serve the public conversation, as Trump's megaphone, we helped fuel the deadly events of January 6th,' the employees wrote.
After the announcement, stocks in Twitter fell by 3.8 percent within an hour and continued to crash.
At the same time, there were reports that social meda app Parler crashed as it appeared that Trump's followers fled to the more conservative-leaning platform, abandoning Twitter.
On Friday, Twitter also permanently banned two Trump loyalists — former national security adviser Michael Flynn and attorney Sidney Powell — as part of a broader purge of accounts promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory. Twitter vowed to take action on behaviour that has the potential to lead to offline harm.
'Given the renewed potential for violence surrounding this type of behaviour in the coming days, we will permanently suspend accounts that are solely dedicated to sharing QAnon content,' Twitter said in a statement.
The company also said Trump attorney Lin Wood was permanently suspended on Tuesday for violating its rules, but provided no additional details.
The company says that when it determines a group or campaign is engaged in 'coordinated harmful activity' it may suspend accounts that it finds primarily encourages that behaviour.
Other tech companies also acted more swiftly against Trump's accounts this week, citing threats of violence.
Snapchat locked Trump's account 'indefinitely.' Twitch, the live-streaming site owned by Amazon and used by Trump's campaign to stream speeches, disabled Trump´s account until he leaves office.
E-commerce company Shopify shut down two online Trump memorabilia stores.
YouTube also announced more general changes that will penalize accounts spreading misinformation about voter fraud in the 2020 election, with repeat offenders facing permanent removal.
Reddit on Friday banned a forum for Trump supporters, called 'donaldtrump.'
Twitter's shares had already dropped Thursday after the 12-hour ban suggesting that it may be hit by the loss of Trump's followers if they begin to look to other platforms.
Meanwhile Facebook - which went far further than Twitter with an 'indefinite' suspension on Trump's account - saw its shares rise by two percent on Thursday, mirroring a broader surge among top tech stocks.
The difference between the companies' showings likely stemmed from the fact that Trump's presence on Twitter has a much bigger impact on its bottom line, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The 89 million followers on Trump's main Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, represented nearly 48 percent of the company's total base of monetizable daily active users at the end of the third quarter.
Facebook has a much larger base of 1.8 billion daily active users, and less than two percent of them - 35 million - are followers of Trump.
Twitter's stock losses reflect investors broader concerns about what the platform will be in a post-President Trump world, WSJ reported.
It comes as the site faces other uncertainties with engagement, which skyrocketed in 2020 amid a volatile political climate and the coronavirus pandemic.
Now that COVID-19 vaccines have arrived and a more moderate president is taking office, Twitter is expected to see engagement drop precipitously, closer to where it was early last year.
Twitter has long had a tumultuous relationship with Trump, who has repeatedly skirted its rules regarding misinformation and harmful content.
Facebook, however, stood firm on its suspension of the president's Facebook and Instagram account, which will remain in place at least until the end of his term on January 20.
In an extraordinary blog post, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg accused Trump of using the platform 'to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government'.
Zuckerberg said the president used his Facebook page 'to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building' and that allowing him to freely post in the final 13 days of his term would pose too great a risk.
'The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden,' he wrote.
'His decision to use his platform to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building has rightly disturbed people in the US and around the world.
'We removed these statements yesterday because we judged that their effect - and likely their intent - would be to provoke further violence.
'Following the certification of the election results by Congress, the priority for the whole country must now be to ensure that the remaining 13 days and the days after inauguration pass peacefully and in accordance with established democratic norms.
'Over the last several years, we have allowed President Trump to use our platform consistent with our own rules, at times removing content or labeling his posts when they violate our policies.
'We did this because we believe that the public has a right to the broadest possible access to political speech, even controversial speech.
'But the current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.'
Zuckerberg concluded: 'We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.
'Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.'
Trump had tweeted just twice on Friday, announcing his refusal to uphold tradition by going to Biden's swearing in as his remaining aides and allies described him as a 'total monster' and 'mad King George' as his presidency ends in chaos.
Trump isolated himself from his staff and the Republican Party, holed up in the Oval Office with a bunker mentality as aides pleaded with him to send a message of healing to the country in the aftermath of the MAGA mob storming Capitol Hill.
He returned to Twitter Thursday night - after the social media network locked his account - with a call for 'peace' and 'unity' although no acknowledgment of his own role in whipping up the mob who stormed the Capitol, leaving a dead police officer and four dead of their own in their wake.
But on Friday morning, the peacemaking ended: he launched a tweet partly in all capitals to thank his supporters, calling them 'great American Patriots.'
The last president not to attend his successor's swearing-in was President Andrew Johnson in 1869 - who had also been impeached. Both John Adams and John Quincy Adams snubbed their successors too.
Shortly after Trump announced the snub, Barack and Michelle Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton announced they would attend. George W Bush and wife Laura had already confirmed they would attend. Jimmy Carter, 96, and wife Roslynn, 93, will not attend, the first inaugural they have missed since 1977, while they attempt to keep safe from COVID.
Trump and the first family will reportedly leave the White House on January 19 to go to his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida - a decision made so that he gets to fly on a plane with the call sign Air Force One, a privilege he loses as soon as he is not the sitting president.
Now that Trump has been knocked off one of his favorite pulpits, he may resort to other online channels such as Parler, a 2-year-old, more freewheeling alternative to Twitter that has become increasingly popular among the president's most ardent supporters.
Many have used the forum to spread falsehoods and hateful comments.
But Parler, which was already tiny compared to Twitter, has bigger problems that could threaten its future.
Google suspended Parler from its app store on Friday over continued postings that seek 'to incite ongoing violence in the U.S.'
The company cited an 'ongoing and urgent public safety threat' and said Parler won´t be reinstated until the issues are addressed.
Apple has issued Parler a similar warning and given it 24 hours to fix things. Parler CEO John Matze said in a post that the company 'won't cave to politically motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech'.
While Trump could migrate to Parler, Gab or some other alternative site, doing so will greatly limit his influence, said Shannon McGregor, an assistant professor of journalism and media at the University of North Carolina.
Trump has always craved legitimacy and standing in the mainstream media despite his complaints about normal reporting he has long referred to as 'fake news.' He won't get that on other platforms, she said.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.