Twitter has finally muzzled it's most notorious user: disgraced one-term President, Donald J. Trump. Yesterday rival service Facebook indefinitely suspended Trump's accounts on both Facebook and Instagram, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg issuing a hand-wringing, pearl-clutching statement about how he had, at last, decided that perhaps allowing the President's lies to flourish on the Western world's largest social network might, you know, prove detrimental to democracy.
On Wednesday, Twitter removed a number of Trump's posts and temporarily suspended his account, but as we argued then, it felt like little more than a slap on the wrist and an opportunity for the President and his lapdogs to regroup. You know things have gotten really depraved when Facebook — which says its suspension will extend to at least after the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden on January 20 — is acting as a role model.
Saw this coming — The worst part of Twitter's move, is the URL for its announcement of it (https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/suspension.html) includes the date "2020," suggesting the company has long expected Trump would eventually do something warranting the ban we've seen today. The post, entitled, "Permanent suspension of @realDonaldTrump," says one of the reasons for the ban is that the soon-to-be-former President's tweets are, "highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021."
Both Twitter and Facebook have struggled with Trump's propensity to use their platforms to attack rivals, disseminate conspiracy theories, and encourage his supporters to do likewise. And by "struggled," what we really mean is, neither platform has been willing to stand up to the world's most infamous and thinnest-skinned bully.
Putting the "twit" in Twitter — Trump's account was one of the most popular on Twitter and drove enormous engagement, both from those who agree with him and those who can't help but watch the car-crash-like embarrassment that is the former host of The Apprentice spewing his every thought, unfiltered and unfettered, directly only the micro-blogging service.
When your business is built on driving interactions against which you can serve ads and generate revenue, muting one of your stars is a hard pill to swallow. It could, after all, effectively shave a few feet off the next superyacht you can afford to commission and leave you in the embarrassing position of having a smaller boat than Larry Elisson.
A bad week for Don and company — Less than an hour before Twitter banned Trump, rival social network Parler — which has positioned itself as an outlet for the sorts of right-wingers who believe the election was stolen and that shirtlessness and furry hats constitute suitable coup garb — got an email from Apple telling it to remove the offending content on its platform and reform its content moderation policies within 24 hours or face being banned from the App Store.
Trump's merchandise store, meanwhile, has also been shuttered, because even Shopify has decided its long term prospects are more important than continuing to accept MAGA dollars. Earlier today (for added indignity) Reddit also banned the r/donaldtrump subreddit. Because you know you've hit rock bottom when even Reddit thinks your content is too incendiary.
Blame Twitter, don't praise it — Twitter should have ditched Trump ages ago. Sure, it's easy to gloat as the Trumpian Empire draws its last, rasping breaths. And it's a tragic indictment on the movement that the best representatives Don's clarion calls could muster were the sorts of people who climb (and fall off of) walls (even when the stairs are right there), or accidentally electrocute themselves while trying to pilfer art. But it should never have come to this.
Twitter backpedaling with the enthusiasm of Ted Cruz discovering he's just clipped into the pedals of a transgender spin class is the embodiment of too-little-too-late-ism. Like Facebook, Twitter let Trump run roughshod over its terms and conditions of service because he was good for business. Earlier today, Twitter's own staff called for the service to ban Trump... a call the company ignored for hours.
As one savvy Twitter user put it, "Well that escalated steadily over four years." Like so many others, Twitter knew what was coming. The difference is, by sitting on its hands, Twitter tacitly chose to endorse it. By choosing to ignore what was fomenting on its platform it abdicated its responsibilities as a private company responsible not just to shareholders, but to its users. As one of the world's most potent amplification tools, it should have done better. Its negligence shouldn't go unpunished, and it certainly shouldn't be forgotten.
UPDATE (8:45 p.m. ET): Trump attempted to use the @POTUS Twitter account to put out the tweets in the images below, but Twitter swiftly removed them.