I had been unconvinced that Trump would ever get banned from Twitter, mostly because many of Trump’s egregious tweets as president have been egregious specifically because he was president. You can’t actually get banned for calling someone a “dummy dope” or a “phony,” and it’s rare to see bans even for racist or sexist or ableist comments unless they contain actual slurs. Nor is it easy to get banned for obliquely offering up an enemy for coordinated harassment—by that standard, many pop stars would be long gone. Most of Trump’s everyday Twitter behavior is unseemly but not bannable, and his most offensive tweets were galling because they invoked presidential power—hinting at a nuclear arms race, suggesting that his military might violently suppress protest. That power goes away on January 20. But Grimmelmann, like all of the other experts I spoke with, believed that the Twitter policy Trump was most likely to violate is its rule against the incitement or glorification of violence. It would have to be a bright line, he said, and Twitter would need to be able to defend the enforcement by pointing to a clear policy. “I don’t expect them to fully explain their reasoning publicly,” he added. “They’ll share far fewer details than were part of the internal deliberation.” And after Dorsey’s irritation with how his staff handled a URL block on a New York Post story about Hunter Biden, Grimmelmann said the CEO would have to be the one to personally make the call. (Twitter declined to comment on this.)
Brian L. Ott, a communication professor at Missouri State University and a co-author of The Twitter Presidency, agreed that, were Trump to get banned, it would probably be for incitement to violence. “I don’t think there’s any question about that,” he said. “He has demonstrated a willingness again and again to legitimate and stoke political violence.” He will do it again, Ott said, and he will eventually get booted from his favorite website. It’s only a matter of time.