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Twitter banned President Trump. But can it actually last forever?

Jan 9, 2021, 7:09 PM | Updated: Jan 11, 2021, 5:47 am
twitter banned Trump...
FILE - This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

After Twitter banned President Donald Trump from its platform Friday — along with a slew of other social media sites — the president has begun looking for other ways to keep in touch with supporters.

Among those is Parler, a new social media site that touts its lack of censorship. Since its inception, the site has attracted several Trump supporters, conspiracy theorists and conservatives. 

Although President Trump hasn’t been removed from Parler, app stores like Apple and Google removed the platform citing posts encouraging violence and false claims. 

Since then, the president has floated the idea of creating his own social media platform for supporters. It’s not clear whether he’ll do this or how long it may take. 

This comes after violent protests erupted in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday outside the Capitol as Congress convened to certify the Electoral College vote. While the president was not physically present, he posted from his Twitter account — prompting criticism that he was “inciting violence.”

After sites like Facebook and Twitter removed the president from their sites, the question remains: Can he really be banned forever? 

Can Twitter legally remove President Trump forever? 

While most social media sites, like Facebook and Instagram, only suspended the president’s accounts until Inauguration Day (Jan. 20), Twitter took the unusual step to have its ban last “permanently.”

It’s unclear how long this ban would last and if it’s even legal for a social media site to do so. 

“There’s an underlying question whether the First Amendment applies,” said ABC News Legal Analyst Royal Oakes. “Let’s assume for the moment that Twitter has a limited right to suspend of ban people. […] For them to say he is gone ‘permanently,’ I think allows people to criticize and say that really went over the line. On the other hand, there is a legitimate debate as to whether it was incitement of riot.” 

Several supporters have taken to social media to argue Twitter violated the First Amendment by banning President Trump. However, the First Amendment only protects against the government restricting free speech — so it’s unclear whether the social media site is in violation. 

“That’s in flux,” Oakes said. “As a result, everything is murky. Does the First Amendment apply? Was this going over the top?”

It’s a longstanding debate. Experts have argued for years whether social media sites have the right to ban people or groups, arguing it’s unlawful censorship. 

Oakes said it would make more sense if Twitter opted for a temporary ban like its social media counterparts. But with a “permanent” suspension, it’s unclear whether the president will get to sign back onto his Twitter account.

 

Listen to the full interview with Royal Oakes: 

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Twitter banned President Trump. But can it actually last forever?