Trump Could Be Banned From Twitter 'Pretty Quickly' After Leaving White House

Since losing the U.S. presidential election this month, Donald Trump's Twitter feed has been littered with short notices from the platform warning users that his stream of posts contains "disputed" claims.

Over the past week, the president has falsely suggested Democrats and the news media are attempting to "steal" the election, claimed the voting process was "rigged," that poll watchers were thrown out of counting rooms, and insisted that he actually won.

In each case, Twitter put clear labels on the bottom of his posts stressing that Trump's assertions were not confirmed, and in some cases in opposition of the truth.

The wording of one notice—"this claim is disputed by official sources"—transcended to meme status this week as Twitter users comically added it to their own posts.

But experts told Newsweek that for Trump, who from January will no longer be awarded the luxury of the site's public-interest exception policy, continuing down his current path could quickly lead to strikes, temporary suspensions and even a full ban.

"I think he very regularly breaks Twitter's terms and conditions and if they enforce them fairly he would get banned pretty quickly," Paul Bernal, associate professor in IT, media law and intellectual property and in the UEA School of Law, told Newsweek.

"I suspect Twitter will be a bit more proactive in labeling, deleting tweets, and eventually banning him," the academic added when asked if Trump is likely to face consequences for his false posts after President-elect Joe Biden enters the White House.

Throughout his term, President Trump received an extra layer of protection against a full ban on the platform due to its public interest rules, which say it can be worthwhile to show controversial posts of elected and government officials if they warrant discussion.

"We may choose to leave up a tweet from an elected or government official that would otherwise be taken down. Instead we place it behind a notice providing context about the rule violation that allows people to click through to see the tweet," it says.

A scroll through Trump's Twitter feed post-election shows that policy in action. Since the night of November 3, the president has published over 300 tweets attacking the integrity of the American election process, The New York Times reported Monday.

Twitter has previouly said that world leaders are not considered to be above the policies absolutely, and could face moderation for posting threats of violence against another person, private information, intimate photos or the promotion of terrorism.

Speculation about a ban on Trump's account has lingered for almost his entire term in office. He has used the platform as a method of communication, attacking his political rivals, spreading campaign talking points and repeatedly bashing the media. His reach is vast, with the account amassing 88.9 million followers to date.

"If Trump were a regular user he most certainly would have had his account shut down by now," said Andrew Lazar, the man behind an experiment called SuspendThePres that mirrors the president's posts to test Twitter and Facebook policy enforcement.

Lazar, who by now has an intimate knowledge of Trump's updates, told Newsweek that the account should be considered the same as any other citizen from January, when Biden is set to be inaugurated despite Trump's legal challenging of the result.

"That being said I don't know if the ban will be retroactively administered based on past violations or not," Lazar noted. "Twitter may very well wait for him to violate their rules again before taking any real action. Since he is currently protected I would say it's safe to say that his clock to permanent suspension doesn't start ticking until Jan 20."

Reflecting on Trump's trajectory in the next two months and beyond, Bernal said that it would depend on what he intends to do when he leaves office.

In the face of a ban the president could shift to Parler—a social network increasingly favored by conservatives—or use the more "sympathetic" Facebook, he said.

"I think it depends on his state of mind when he leaves. He doesn't seem to have much self-control, that could mean he gets banned very quickly," Bernal added.

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during election night in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, early on November 4, 2020. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

For now, Twitter's official line hasn't changed when asked if the ongoing barrage of flags and labels are likely to result in a Trump ban after he loses power.

A Twitter spokesperson told Newsweek via email: "Twitter's approach to world leaders, candidates, and public officials is based on the principle that people should be able to choose to see what their leaders are saying with clear context. This means that we may apply warnings and labels, and limit engagement to certain tweets.

"This policy framework applies to current world leaders and candidates for office, and not private citizens when they no longer hold these positions," they added.

The allusion appears to be that Trump soon wont be guarded because he is no longer a world leader or candidate. Experts said his account will be closely watched.

"Given the pretty strict warning label process Twitter has engaged in post-election, I'd say it's a good bet that they are hawk-eyeing his every word," Lazar said.

"I doubt that will stop post inauguration and the minute he steps out of bounds they will start slapping on the restrictions. Standard three strikes rules I'd assume would apply, [then] 12 hour suspensions and making him take down violating content. Enough of them pile up, they will be forced to permanently ban him from their platform."

"This man and his account's content permeate our national conversation," Lazar added. "Millions of people are still hanging on his every word. When he spreads misinformation it sticks. The damage it is doing to our social fabric will take years to mend."