Donald Trump will no longer be protected by Twitter’s public interest guidelines when he leaves office in January, meaning he will be suspended or banned if he continues to break the platform’s rules.
Twitter’s policy regarding public figures, which was formalised last year, means only “current or potential member of a local, state, national, or supra-national governmental or legislative body” receive special treatment .
The US President’s Twitter account was flagged more than a dozen times in the days following the election for posting misinformation and misleading claims about the election.
Several prominent Democrats called for Twitter to suspend Mr Trump’s account until all states finish counting the votes, however the platform’s public interest guidelines prevent it from being suspended or removed.
After his lead in several key states began to dwindle to challenger Joe Biden, Mr Trump attempted to undermine the electoral process by calling for a halt to the counting of mail-in ballots.
“They are trying to STEAL the Election,” he tweeted.
Democratic Congressman David Cicilline described Mr Trump’s tweets as a “threat to democracy”, while fellow congressman Gerry Connolly tweeted, “This is pure disinformation.”
Warnings placed on Mr Trump’s tweets meant they were not immediately visible on his timeline and engagement with the tweets was restricted.
One warning explained: “Some or all of the content shared in this tweet is disputed and might be misleading about how to participate in an election or another civic process.”
The rate of violations would typically lead to an account suspension, either temporarily or permanently. However, public figures are protected by a “public-interest exception” policy.
This policy states: “We recognise that sometimes it may be in the public interest to allow people to view tweets that would otherwise be taken down. We consider content to be in the public interest if it directly contributes to understanding or discussion of a matter of a matter of public concern.”
A spokesperson for Twitter told The Independent that Mr Trump’s tweets were not removed and his account not suspended as it was in the interest of protecting the health of public discourse.
Mr Trump’s Twitter account fits all three criteria to be considered within the public interest: It is a verified account; The account has more than 100,000 followers;The account belongs to a candidate or current holder of political office.
The final part of this is the most crucial, as Twitter users who have met the first two criteria have been removed in the past. These include popular figures of the alt-right such as Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos - who were both verified and had more than 100,000 followers at the time of being removed.
The wording of the final part of Twitter’s public interest criteria means that once Mr Trump leaves office, he will seemingly no longer be protected against breaking the platform’s rules without punishment.
It states: “The account represents a current or potential member of a local, state, national, or supra-national governmental or legislative body: Current holders of an elected or appointed leadership position in a governmental or legislative body OR Candidates or nominees for political office.”
Twitter did not confirm whether the Mr Trump’s latest violations would have warranted a suspension, but noted that he had frequently violated its Civic Integrity Policy.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies