Twitter will never truly be rid of Trump — but their game of whac-a-mole is working: Tech experts

"There's no way these platforms can completely 'ban' someone — especially someone with such a public profile"

By Brett Bachman
Published May 6, 2021 10:48PM (EDT)
 (AP/Salon)
(AP/Salon)

Twitter continued its high-stakes game of whac-a-mole Thursday by suspending several accounts that were reportedly used to re-post the musings from the blog of former President Donald Trump, who is currently banned from the platform.

At least four of these high-profile Trump clones were locked down quickly after their creation, including @DJTrumpDesk, @DeskofDJT and @DeskofTrump1 and@DJTDesk, which had amassed several thousand followers before it went dark. It remains unclear if any of the accounts were affiliated with Trump or his inner circle.

"As stated in our ban evasion policy, we'll take enforcement action on accounts whose apparent intent is to replace or promote content affiliated with a suspended account," a Twitter spokesperson told the technology site Mashable.

It's a Sisyphean task that several technology experts tell Salon the platform can never truly accomplish — as soon as you ban one page reposting the former president's comments another five will pop up to take its place.

"There's no way these platforms can completely 'ban' someone — especially someone with such a public profile," said Scott Talan, a professor of communication at American University. "But that doesn't mean what they're doing isn't working, at least partially."

Jonathan Nagler, a co-director at New York University's Center for Social Media and Politics who has studied the effects of Twitter's previous interventions on Trump and other users, said the efforts do seem to be having, at least for now, a marked impact on the reach Trump is able to command.

"Absolutely, positively, when Twitter does a hard intervention, they are able to stop discussion of something very quickly," said Jonathan Nagler, a co-director at New York University's Center for Social Media and Politics. "They'll never really be able to [stop Trump's statements from being relayed] with 100 percent certainty, but if they can say 10 people, 100 people, even 1000 people saw something — versus a million, I think that's a win for them."

The escalating game of cat-and-mouse between Twitter and the numerous Trump clone accounts began when he introduced a new website earlier this week, called "From the Desk of Donald J. Trump," where the former president has begun to share Tweet-length thoughts which are seemingly meant to be reposted to social media, with prominently placed share buttons on the interface.

One recent note reads, "What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country. Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before."

But when several accounts tried to share even partial posts from Trump's new "platform," they were met with a suspension for violating the terms of Trump's existing ban — though it appears users can still share links to the website as long as they do not include snippets of the text. 

Facebook, for its part, told the Washington Post that it had already removed two accounts which falsely purported to represent Trump's new website — though it remains unclear what the company will do when users try to share the text of his posts. Facebook dealt another blow to Trump's online audience this week when its Oversight Board refused to allow him back onto the site, though the company will have to decide if it wants to make that decision permanent.

It's a new reality for the social media behemoths following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, which spurred both companies to institute the blanket bans on then-President Trump. 

"He's been kicked off, but Trump still has powerful tentacles online," Talan said. "Moving forward, the companies are going to have to dedicate more resources and more staff to chopping off those tentacles. I don't really see another way forward."


Brett Bachman

Brett Bachman is the Nights/Weekend Editor at Salon.

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