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US riots: Twitter permanently suspends Donald Trump from platform

Twitter says it is banning President Donald Trump from its platform, citing “risk of further incitement of violence.”

The social media giant said on Friday: “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.”

Trump was locked out of his account on his preferred social medial platform for 12 hours earlier this week after a violent mob loyal to him stormed the US Capitol to try to stop Congress from affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Trump posted a video on Twitter calling them “very special” people and saying he loved them. Five people died, including a Capitol Police officer.

Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, on Thursday (Friday NZT) suspended Trump’s account for at least two weeks, and possibly indefinitely. Twitter, however, merely revoked Trump’s posting privileges for 12 hours after he posted a video that repeated false claims about election fraud and praised the rioters who stormed the Capitol.

On Friday, the company 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 said it will take action on behaviour that has the potential to lead to offline harm.

“Given the renewed potential for violence surrounding this type of behavior in the coming days, we will permanently suspend accounts that are solely dedicated to sharing QAnon content,” Twitter said in an emailed 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.

Social media companies have been under intensified pressure to crack down on hate speech since a violent mob egged on by Trump stormed the Capitol. Dozens of QAnon social media accounts were hyping up Trump’s January 6 rally in the heart of Washington, expressing hope it could lead to the overturn of the election results.

On Friday (Saturday NZT), the advocacy coalition Stop Hate for Profit launched a campaign to pressure the major platforms, including YouTube owner Google, to kick Trump off their services for good. The organisation, which includes the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Free Press and Colour of Change, said it would call for an advertiser boycott if the platforms don’t take action by January 20, the date of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Last summer, the coalition organised a month-long ad boycott of Facebook that ultimately involved hundreds of companies to push for more assertive action on hate speech at the social network.

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