Former US president Donald Trump is back online… sort of. Months after being banned by most social media giants, he is now using a “desk” run through his campaign website to post content resembling his trademark tweets.
“From the desk of Donald J. Trump,” revealed on Tuesday, is a page that looks very much like the 45th president’s Twitter account – from which he was banned in January. A promotional video pinned to the top of the feed declares it a “beacon of freedom” and a “place to speak freely and safely.”
From that description, one might think the “desk” is a social media platform for Americans purged by Big Tech – except it’s not. Currently, only Trump can use it to post comments, images and videos. It already contains the archive of statements he has issued since leaving office in January.
Posts from the “desk” can be shared on Twitter and Facebook, but there is no option to create one’s own account or leave a comment or reply. It is unclear whether this is what Trump adviser Jason Miller had in mind when he told reporters in March that the former president would return online “with his own platform” that would “completely redefine the game.”
“This is just a one-way communication” that “allows Trump to communicate with his followers,” a source familiar with the space told Fox News, stating the obvious.
Trump’s personal Twitter account had enabled him to bypass the legacy media in the 2016 election and take his campaign directly to the American public. It had over 88 million followers at one point during his presidency, and was declared a “designated public square” by a federal judge in May 2018, as part of a lawsuit by his critics to force the sitting president to unblock them. That did not stop Twitter from “permanently suspending” – i.e. banning – the sitting president in January 2021.
Twitter’s justification was that Trump’s tweets “and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter” posed a “risk of further incitement of violence.”
This was a reference to allegations that Trump “incited” the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, which temporarily disrupted the joint session of Congress seeking to certify his opponent Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.
Democrats have called the riot an “insurrection” and tried to impeach Trump over it – even after he peacefully left office two weeks later. In an address to Congress last week, Biden described the riot as “the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War,” prompting widespread criticism.
Other social media platforms followed Twitter’s cue, and Trump was soon purged from Facebook and Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. Facebook’s “oversight board” is expected to decide whether to let the former president back onto Mark Zuckerberg’s platform on Wednesday.
Supporters of the 45th president who were purged from Twitter have tried congregating on the rival platform Parler, but this was taken offline within days after Apple, Google and Amazon shut it out from their app stores and online hosting.
Parler has since reappeared online and has even been allowed back on the Apple app store, but has not recaptured the growth momentum cut short by its deplatforming.