Trump will lose protected Twitter status after his presidency

Brian Heater
·2-min read
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 22: U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the briefing room after he made a statement at the White House on May 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump announced news CDC guidelines that churches and places of worship are essential and must reopen now. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 22: U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the briefing room after he made a statement at the White House on May 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump announced news CDC guidelines that churches and places of worship are essential and must reopen now. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Twitter has at various times acknowledged that Donald Trump isn’t bound by the same rules that govern the rest of us. This executive privilege has allowed him to continue posting comments that could have long ago gotten any normal person banned from the platform.

More recently, the service has sought to balance misinformation/disinformation with warning labels that alternately sit below or obscure the text. Twitter was adding these at a frenetic pace in the lead-up to the November 3 election. Labeling has slowed somewhat since then, but moderators have continued flagging a number of Trump’s tweets as his feed has pivoted into a barrage of false or misleading claims around election results.

At yesterday's Congressional hearing, Twitter head Jack Dorsey reiterated that — once he has vacated the office — Trump will no longer be subject to the same manner of protections. “If an account suddenly is not a world leader anymore, that particular policy goes away,” the executive said.

What, precisely, that means remains to be seen of course — and, according to Republican Party leaders, at least, the timing of Trump’s transition to civilian life isn’t entirely certain. But it seems possible, at the very least, that Trump could be suspect to a suspension or ban once Twitter no longer considers his account a matter of public record in the same way.

Social media election takedowns

Twitter offered TechCrunch the following statement regarding Trump’s post-presidency account a few weeks back: “A critical function of our service is providing a place where people can openly and publicly respond to their leaders and hold them accountable. With this in mind, there are certain cases where it may be in the public’s interest to have access to certain Tweets, even if they would otherwise be in violation of our rules.”

The exceptions that get a sitting world leader banned or tweets deleted are decidedly more extreme than most, including:

  • Promotion of terrorism.

  • Clear and direct threats of violence against an individual. (Context matters: As noted above, direct interactions with fellow public figures and/or commentary on political and foreign policy issues would likely not result in enforcement.)

  • Posting private information, such as a home address or nonpublic personal phone number.

  • Posting or sharing intimate photos or videos of someone that were produced or distributed without their consent.

  • Engaging in behaviors relating to child sexual exploitation.

  • Encouraging or promoting self-harm.

As Dorsey noted during the hearing, Trump will (theoretically) lose those protections when he leaves office.