AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Twitter has permanently suspended the account of President Trump. Navigate to the handle @realDonaldTrump, and now you get this message, quote, "account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter rules." Now, many have blamed Trump's tweets and rhetoric for encouraging Wednesday's attack on the U.S. Capitol. And now, two days after that attack, the president of the United States is without his preferred method of public communication.
NPR tech correspondent Bobby Allyn joins us now to walk us through this latest development. Hi, Bobby.
BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
CHANG: So what exactly did Twitter cite as its rationale for making this move?
ALLYN: Twitter said it made the decision in order to prevent the president from inciting further violence around the country. But the company did not make this decision in a vacuum, right? I mean, researchers, civil rights groups, even hundreds of Twitter employees have in recent days called on the company to kick Trump off the platform. So Twitter banning Trump for life only really came after a chorus of people said Trump is not just spreading false claims; he's actually stoking attacks on American democracy itself.
CHANG: I mean, yeah, as we said, a lot of people have viewed Trump's tweets and his rhetoric as egging on the mob that attacked the Capitol. But, Bobby, I mean, so many objections have been raised before - over the past four years - to Trump's incendiary tweets. So why do you think Twitter is only now taking this drastic move literally just days away from the end of his presidency?
ALLYN: Yeah, that's a good question, and we don't know. But I don't think it's lost on Twitter that Trump, like you said, has 12 days left in office, and Democrats are about to take power in Washington. So I can't say this is what caused the decision, but it's certainly notable that Twitter only banned Trump after it was clear that he had lost power. But yes, he has created a long record on Twitter of misleading, disparaging and just straight-up racist tweets. I mean, remember when Trump tweeted, when the looting starts, the shooting starts in reference to the George Floyd protesters?
ALLYN: That got a lot of attention. Yeah. I mean, many said back then that Twitter should ban Trump over that tweet, but they didn't.
CHANG: They didn't. OK, so now President Trump is without Facebook. He's without Instagram. He's without Twitter. How crippling is this for him when it comes to his ability to communicate with his supporters?
ALLYN: Quite. I mean, this is devastating for him. I mean, many experts say Trump as a political figure could never have existed without Twitter. I mean, the platform has helped him amass just this unbelievable following. It's, you know, propelled his political career. And once he got in the White House, his tweets became, you know, the equivalent of a presidential decree. I mean, just by sending one tweet, in a matter of a second, he could change a national news cycle. He could grab the spotlight back. So now that power is gone. And sure, he can go to a smaller, you know, alternative platform, but not having 88 million followers to directly speak to is unquestionably going to be a major hit to his relevancy.
CHANG: Right. OK, so has the White House responded to any of this yet?
ALLYN: Not yet, though we heard from Jason Miller, who was a top adviser to Trump, and he called Trump's ban, quote, "disgusting" and said, quote, "big tech wanted to cancel the 75 million people who voted for Trump." We also heard from President Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., weighing in, saying, quote, "we are living in Orwell's "1984," where free speech no longer exists in America."
CHANG: All right. That is NPR's Bobby Allyn. Thank you, Bobby.
ALLYN: Thanks, Ailsa.
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