The Social Media Rebellion Against President Trump


Amanda Ruzumna, Contributor

President Trump used recent technological advancements to communicate with the public more regularly and directly than any previous president had. Through his constant use of social media, specifically Twitter, he regularly posted dozens of Tweets a day. Trump formed a direct and unfiltered line of communication between him and the public in which he was able to express everything from policy goals to updates on his administration to personal attacks and strongly worded opinions. This public appeals strategy originally helped Trump stand out as a unique candidate and political outsider.

Even though this form of communication helped Trump become even more popular among his supporters, it also facilitated equally strong reactions against him as his attacks and informal opinions gained backlash. As we near the end of his administration, the backlash has only increased as social media platforms have begun to limit or ban Trump’s activity, marking the rise of an online revolt.

On Friday, January 8th, Twitter permanently suspended Trump from using its services “due to the risk of further incitement for violence,” stripping Trump of his primary means of direct communication with the American people. This action occurred two days after a group of Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol, a tragedy in which 5 people were killed. Following this riot, Trump took to Twitter, praising the rioters in multiple tweets. One of these tweets stated, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”

In a blog post, Twitter explained that many Trump supporters were using the platform to plan a secondary attack on the U.S. Capitol and state capitol building on January 17. The blog post also stated that Trump’s tweets could be interpreted as encouraging the next attack. Twitter wrote, “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 attempted to continue using Twitter even after the suspension, tweeting from the @POTUS account. However, Twitter quickly took the tweets down. The company prohibits users with suspended accounts from posting from a secondary account to try to get around the suspension.

Trump released a statement later in the day that Friday, arguing that Twitter was attempting to silence him. He also revealed that he was speaking with other sites and looking for new platforms, including one he may create to broadcast his message. “Twitter is not about FREE SPEECH,” Mr. Trump stated. “They are all about promoting a Radical Left platform where some of the most vicious people in the world are allowed to speak freely.”

Shannon McGregor, a senior researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, shared that “Twitter’s permanent suspension of Trump’s Twitter account is long overdue…This is the key de-platforming for Trump. The inability to tweet cuts off his direct access to the press — and, by extension, the public.”

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voiced on Twitter on Friday that “[i]t is now time for Congress to repeal Section 230 and put Big Tech on the same legal footing as every other company in America.” Similarly, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted on Friday: “We are living Orwell’s 1984. Free-speech no longer exists in America. It died with big tech and what’s left is only there for a chosen few. This is absolute insanity!”

Twitter’s suspension of Trump’s account also marked the grand finale of a series of social media actions against the President. The day before the suspension, Facebook had similarly banned Trump from using its platform for the rest of his term. Other social media sites, including Snapchat, YouTube, Twitch and Reddit, similarly have taken restrictive measures regarding Trump’s presence on their platforms. 

The restrictive actions taken by some of these social media platforms, specifically Facebook, seem to contradict previous positions the platforms have taken on how they regulate the content on their sites. For instance, Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg announced in an October 2019 speech given at Georgetown University that Facebook would not police political speech. But on Thursday, Zuckerberg stated that the risks of allowing Trump to use the platform were too great to allow him to continue doing so. In response to Trump’s unprecedented and inappropriate use of these platforms, social media sites have begun to take a stand in regulating their content, even when it is of the nation’s most prominent politicians such as Trump.