NEW YORK (AFP) – Friends, family and advisors to United States (US) Donald Trump have been bitterly complaining that Twitter’s ban of the president after his supporters stormed the US Capitol amounts to an assault on free speech by radical leftists.
Ironically, given the enormous influence of the platform, they have aired their grievances first of all on … Twitter – a choice underscoring the platform’s huge readership and the relative paucity of alternatives.
“Free speech is dead & controlled by leftist overlords,” tweeted Donald Trump Jr, the president’s older son.
Asked Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, “Who will be silenced next?”
And Mike Pompeo – posting not as secretary of state but on his personal account – tweeted: “Sadly, this isn’t a new tactic of the Left. They’ve worked to silence opposing voices for years.”
For influential Republican senator Ted Cruz, the decisions by Twitter and some other social media were “absurd and profoundly dangerous”.
“Why,” he went on, “should a handful of Silicon Valley billionaires have a monopoly on political speech?”
Every one of the above messages was posted on Twitter, the social network that for years has been Trump’s preferred means of communicating with the public – and sometimes even with other world leaders.
But on Friday, amid widespread fury after he encouraged the supporters who forced their way into the US Capitol in a bloody and chaotic melee, Twitter banned him permanently. It was taking the rare measure, it said, “due to the risk of further incitement of violence”.
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitch joined in suspending the president’s accounts.
Reddit, a news and discussion website that is normally fairly permissive, on Friday closed a forum popular with Trump fans, saying it was inciting hate.
The question now is where Trump and his supporters will turn next.
Donald Trump Jr himself fearing exclusion from Twitter, has asked his followers to send him their email contacts – hardly the most reactive form of communications – so he can keep them abreast of news.
In a quickly deleted tweet, the president himself on Friday spoke of creating his own platform “in the near future”, without providing any detail.
Conservative platforms popular among Trump’s fiercest supporters, like Parler and Gab, have drawn growing numbers of users.