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Who did Twitter ban during the Trump era, and why?

Donald Trump at a lectern with a microphone.
Donald Trump and some of his allies were suspended from Twitter over spreading misinformation or inciting or advocating violence.
(Associated Press)
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With Elon Musk buying Twitter, there’s speculation that former President Trump and many of his allies could have their bans lifted.

During the Trump era, Twitter barred many on the far right, including extremist groups, from using the platform. A number of Trump supporters were kicked off for spreading falsehoods, inciting or advocating violence, “harmful activity” or other violations of Twitter rules.

De-platforming can limit the spread of harmful speech, including misinformation and disinformation, studies have shown. Amy Bruckman, a Georgia Tech professor of interactive computing and a lead author on one study, said that the prevalence of ideas spread by three far-right or conspiracy-theorist figures went down dramatically after their Twitter accounts were disabled. The “toxicity of their followers went down after they were kicked off,” she said.

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If such figures were to be reinstated, Bruckman said, “the ideas come back and the toxicity of their followers comes back too.”

Musk has hinted in several tweets that he hopes to overhaul Twitter’s content moderation policy. “I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” he wrote in a regulatory filing, adding that the company would not fulfill that potential “in its current form.”

The tech billionaire has not publicly committed to reinstating any banned user and has made no comments regarding Trump, who has said he has no plans to return to Twitter even if his access is restored.

Here is why Trump and others from his orbit were banned:

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Donald Trump

The former president was permanently suspended two days after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob of Trump supporters. Twitter determined that Trump had encouraged violence and posed a “risk of further incitement.”

Trump has since started his own platform, Truth Social, which aims to compete with Twitter but has floundered so far. Fox News on Monday reported that Trump told the outlet: “I am not going on Twitter. I am going to stay on TRUTH.... I hope Elon buys Twitter because he’ll make improvements to it and he is a good man, but I am going to be staying on TRUTH.”

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Conservatives who chafe against Twitter’s content moderation and banning of former President Trump see an upside in Elon Musk’s views on free speech.

April 26, 2022

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).
(Samuel Corum / Tribune News Service)

Trump ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, is the only sitting member of Congress to be permanently banned from Twitter. After numerous temporary suspensions, her personal account was banned on Jan. 2, 2021, for violating the platform’s COVID-19 misinformation policy; she had tweeted critical and misleading messages about public health measures put in effect to control the pandemic.

Greene still maintains a presence on the platform with her official account; she tweeted Monday morning, anticipating that her personal account would be reinstated.

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Stephen K. Bannon

Stephen K. Bannon.
Former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

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Stephen K. Bannon, former Trump campaign chief and former White House chief strategist, was banned Nov. 5, 2020, after he called on his podcast for the beheading of FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert.

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David Duke

The former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and onetime member of the Louisiana House of Representatives was kicked off Twitter on July 30, 2020. It was unclear which of his tweets violated the platform’s hateful conduct policy.

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Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell

On Jan. 8, 2021, Twitter removed the accounts of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, and pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell. The two had spread content relating to the QAnon conspiracy theory, Twitter said. Powell had also spread falsehoods about the election, making claims but never offering proof about voter fraud. Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and was the only White House official to be convicted in connection with the Trump-Russia investigation, was pardoned by Trump in late November 2020.

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Alex Jones

A crowd of people at the U.S. Capitol.
Alex Jones, center, at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Far-right talk show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was banned on Sept. 6, 2018, after violating Twitter’s abusive behavior policy. Jones, among other falsehoods, had long claimed the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six educators was a hoax.

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He recently appeared before the House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection.

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Mike Lindell

MyPillow chief executive and Trump supporter and donor Mike Lindell was taken off Twitter on Jan. 25, 2021. He had been a vocal and constant proponent of the falsehood that the 2020 election was rigged. He also claimed that the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot was “peaceful.” Twitter said he had repeatedly violated its “civic integrity policy.”

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