People have been calling for Donald Trump to be suspended from Twitter for years, claiming that the contents of his tweets regularly violate the rules of the platform. As it turns out, Twitter will take action against the President's words — just not when they come from his actual account, as the company believes the president's tweets are within the public interest.
The account @SuspendThePres is an experiment in how Twitter applies its rules. It was started by Twitter user @BizarreLazar on May 29 with a simple mission: repost everything the president tweets. The account operator encouraged followers to report the tweets for violating the rules, as many users likely do with Trump's own tweets.
As it turns out, when the words come from someone who isn't the president, they are grounds for quick suspension. About 68 hours after @SuspendThePres started tweeting like the president, the account was temporarily suspended for violating Twitter's rules against glorifying violence.
The offending tweet that resulted in the ban was Trump's threat to have the military shoot looters who have taken to ransacking stores following demonstrations against police brutality. The tweet read, in full: "....These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!"
In order for @SuspendthePres to continue tweeting, the account holder was required to delete the tweet. The account also received a 12-hour suspension that restricted its ability to tweet or otherwise engage on the platform. When contacted, Twitter took issue with the suggestion that @SuspendthePres was "suspended" for 12 hours over the tweet. The company frames the punishment as a "temporary lock out."
Twitter took action against the tweet when Trump posted it, too, marking the content as sensitive and restricting the ability to reply to, favorite it, or retweet it without comment. The company included a disclaimer on the tweet that noted it violated Twitter's rules about glorifying violence. "However," the warning reads, "Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible." The company did not require the tweet to be removed, nor was President Trump temporarily locked out of his account, which enabled him to follow up on the tweet by once again saying "looting leads to shooting" and calling for the repeal of a law that allows Twitter to moderate content on its platform.
It has been Twitter's policy since last summer to keep tweets on the platform that violate the company's rules when they are considered to be in the public interest. The company used the same rule to flag a tweet from Osmar Terra, a Brazilian politician, when he posted misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. The company also applied fact checks to multiple tweets from Trump that contained false and misleading information about mail-in voting — an incident that prompted Trump to threaten to shut down the platform for violating his free speech and resulted in him signing a (probably unenforceable) executive order that targets social media companies.