Twitter instituted its policy of refusing to ban politicians in response to President Trump, but the leader won’t enjoy that protection once he’s out of office. The social media giant has confirmed to Engadget and The Verge that Trump will lose “public interest” safeguard on his personal account once President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in at noon on January 20th, 2021. When that transition takes place, Twitter can ban Trump or otherwise crack down on him like any everyday user.
“This [public interest] policy framework applies to current world leaders and candidates for office, and not private citizens when they no longer hold these positions,” Twitter said in a statement to Engadget.
Official accounts (such as @POTUS, @FLOTUS and @WhiteHouse) will still receive protection as they’ll transfer to the Biden administration.
Twitter has taken a number of steps to limit Trump’s influence when he tweets known false or incendiary statements, such as applying fact check labels and hiding posts that promote violence. The company hid four posts on November 6th alone, when Trump made unsupported claims of voter fraud.
However, Twitter has also faced accusations of using the public interest claim to avoid retaliation from Trump and his political allies. Trump signed an order potentially limiting protections for social media firms shortly after Twitter used its first fact check label — the company likely won’t have to worry about responses like those under Biden.
A change like this was largely expected, but also sets up a potential confrontation. Trump has a large following on Twitter, and he relies heavily on the social media site to share his views. There could be an uproar if Twitter bans him, even if his posts are no longer a matter of public record.