President Donald Trump’s tweeting privileges have now been restored following Twitter’s temporary lock on his account this week for inciting what became a violent insurrection at the US Capitol. In his first tweet since being let out of the penalty box, Trump shared a video conceding that he will be a one-term president.
But for Twitter, the challenge of what to do about Trump’s account may only be getting more difficult, not less. As Trump reemerges, the company now faces a test of its commitment that any further violations of its policies by the President will result in a permanent ban. Even one more transgression could land Trump in Twitter jail — forever.
It’s a game of chicken that Trump, whose entire presidency has been devoted to breaking rules and testing boundaries, is sure to play.
For the last four years, Twitter has been central to Trump’s presidency, a fact that has also benefited the company in the form of countless hours of user engagement. Twitter took a light-touch approach to moderating his account, often arguing that as a public official, Trump must be given wide latitude to speak.
But as Trump nears the end of his term — and as public pressure has grown against the platform — the balance may be shifting. Last spring, the company began applying warning labels to Trump’s tweets in an attempt to correct his misleading claims ahead of the election; it arguably had the opposite effect, prompting Trump to retaliate with an executive order and ever more baseless claims of election fraud.
With those claims having reached their zenith by spurring a full-blown riot, Wednesday saw the most aggressive moves yet by Twitter and other companies to rein Trump in. For the first time in four years, it seems, Trump will need to appease Twitter more than Twitter needs to appease him.