The gap was unusual. The president, who has more than 88 million followers, has made Twitter his main means of speaking directly to his supporters and the country at large, and he uses it frequently. In the previous 30 days, he had tweeted an average of 18 times each day, according to Social Blade, a social media statistics site.
That ended Wednesday night, after Twitter locked the president’s account and required him to delete three of his tweets. One tweet included a video of Trump telling rioters: “So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”
Another now-deleted tweet from Wednesday read: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Facebook also took down the video and said it will suspend Trump for at least the next two weeks, and maybe longer. When he gets access back, if he does, Trump will no longer be president.
“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post announcing the suspension.
Twitter announced its action against the president from a company account Wednesday evening, saying it required that the tweets be deleted “for repeated and severe violations of our Civic Integrity policy.”
The tone of Trump’s Thursday video was much different from that of his banned tweets, as he acknowledged that a new administration will take over Jan. 20.
“The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy,” he said.
It’s unclear why the president waited so long to tweet Thursday. But it marked his longest break from tweeting since Nov. 30, 2019, when 27 hours, 11 minutes and 32 seconds lapsed between his posts, according to Factba.se, which tracks the president’s Twitter account. That was during the early proceedings of the House’s impeachment hearings.
His longest tweeting gap as president happened started on June 7, 2017, and lasted for 45 hours, 53 minutes and 24 seconds, according to Factba.se. According to Brendan Brown, the creator of the Trump Twitter Archive, Trump’s longest-ever break from posting on the site was nearly 20 days in late 2009.
More recently, president took a more-than-12-hour break from tweeting in early October after he announced on the site that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
There was never a doubt Trump would return to tweeting, said social media researcher and Clemson University professor Darren Linvill. His audience is too big to quit. And his short absence might have cut down only slightly on misinformation circulating online, Linvill said.
“He has consistently been the biggest source of misinformation since Election Day,” Linvill said. “But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still plenty of it out there.”
Trump’s vast online network helps spread the disinformation he posts far and wide.
Trump for years has lashed out at social media companies for what he says is censorship, particularly after Twitter labeled one of his posts with a fact check for the first time in May. He has pushed to repeal a law called Section 230, which prevents tech companies from being held liable for much of what their users post online.
Many Democrats and Republicans agree that 230 needs some sort of reform, though Trump’s suggestions have been extreme.
Unlike past presidents, Trump has embraced social media as a way to talk to people directly. He often, experts believe, writes and sends his own tweets — a practice that has enamored him with his supporters and gotten him into hot water with civil rights organizations, lawmakers and members of his own administration.
Since the election, however, he has escalated his rhetoric. The day before the mob stormed the Capitol, Trump shared a past tweet to a Stop the Steal website. He wrote, “See you in D.C.”
On Jan. 3, he retweeted a Stop the Steal supporter’s post calling for people to meet in D.C. on Jan. 6 for a march. “I will be there. Historic day!” he wrote.
Twitter labeled eight of Trump’s tweets as “disputed” Wednesday before eventually banning Trump for 12 hours.
Andrew Van Dam contributed to this report.