In the span of about 12 hours, President Trump signed an executive order on ‘online censorship’ Thursday afternoon and Twitter put a label on one of his tweets overnight, saying it was “glorifying violence.”
It’s perhaps the lowest chapter in President Trump’s love-hate relationship with the platform. Over the years he has repeatedly slammed the company while also often acknowledging how key a tool it has been in his political rise.
The dynamic was on full display on Thursday afternoon when, in the span of a couple minutes, the President acknowledged Twitter’s usefulness for him personally and also expressed a desire to “just shut it down”.
He said he would delete his account but it is useful to get his message out without a media filter. “I put something out, and the next day or the next hour or the next minute, everybody is reading about it” he said on Thursday adding ”I'm able to refute fake news, and that’s very important.”
The back and forth began when the social media company fact-checked his tweets for the first time on Tuesday, Trump responded with a series of threats against the company, which he claimed was stifling free speech. The president’s first reaction on Friday to the “glorifying violence” label was, naturally, in a tweet.
Twitter is doing nothing about all of the lies & propaganda being put out by China or the Radical Left Democrat Party. They have targeted Republicans, Conservatives & the President of the United States. Section 230 should be revoked by Congress. Until then, it will be regulated!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020
It’s far from the first time the president has mentioned Twitter (TWTR) and also not the first time he has threatened it. In fact, according to trumptwitterarchive.com, the president has now directly mentioned the company about 200 times - just on the platform itself - since he began his account in 2009.
Here’s some notable mentions of the company over the years.
I love Twitter.... it's like owning your own newspaper--- without the losses.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 10, 2012
Accusations that the ‘Radical Left is in total command & control’
In recent years, Trump has most often brought up the company to complain about what he sees as conservative bias. In 2019, he held a “social media summit” to talk about bias.
Earlier this month, in a typical tweet, he said that he wants to “remedy this illegal situation.”
The Radical Left is in total command & control of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google. The Administration is working to remedy this illegal situation. Stay tuned, and send names & events. Thank you Michelle! https://t.co/ZQfcfD3Hk9
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2020
Trump has threatened legal action against the company multiple times in spite of little evidence of any sort of systemic bias. He often mentions the forces he sees allied against him, like so-called “shadow banning” of his political allies.
He also tweeted in support of a range of right-wing figures who had their accounts frozen from an illegal immigration activist to the actor James Woods. Woods was banned after tweeting a hoax meme that encouraged men not to vote.
Even while decrying when his allies have their accounts frozen, he’s pushed for the banning of his perceived opponents.
When will the Radical Left Wing Media apologize to me for knowingly getting the Russia Collusion Delusion story so wrong? The real story is about to happen! Why is @nytimes, @washingtonpost, @CNN, @MSNBC allowed to be on Twitter & Facebook. Much of what they do is FAKE NEWS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2019
On occasion, the President has also talked about the company as a tool.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2017
Trump’s tone has veered in a positive direction in response to personal outreach from the company. In 2019 Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey traveled to Washington to discuss the issue of supposed anti-conservative bias. The trip earned a friendly tweet in response.
Great meeting this afternoon at the @WhiteHouse with @Jack from @Twitter. Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general. Look forward to keeping an open dialogue! pic.twitter.com/QnZi579eFb
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2019
It was a similar pattern during the 2016 campaign. Then-candidate Trump was invited to participate in a video Q&A at Twitter's New York headquarters. He discussed topics from Israel to Tony Romo and apparently enjoyed the appearance enough to tweet positive mentions.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2015
‘Everybody's talking about my doing twitter’
That symbiotic relationship between the company and it’s most prominent account holder was often reflected in Trump’s tweets from 2016 and earlier. Many of the mentions praised his own use of the platform.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2015
He also repeatedly tweeted about a presidential bid before actually getting in the race.
After he signed up for his account, Trump mulled a run in 2012 before ultimately deciding against it. He then repeatedly teased a run for the next four years, which very few political observers took seriously at the time.
"@Dietztaa_9: If Donald Trump ran for president, he'd have my vote based on his Twitter account alone"
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2014
One bump in the road was in 2013 when Trump’s account was apparently hacked and tweeted out a lyric by rapper Lil Wayne. Trump responded by saying Twitter would be “irrelevant” without better security. Another back and forth with the company came in 2017 when a Twitter employee, briefly shut down the President’s account. The President said it showed he was “having an impact”.
But perhaps one of the most significant legacies of Donald Trump’s early years on Twitter was the chance – as far back as 2012 – to build his follower count and workshop what would become his iconic slogan.
Honored to have passed 1 million twitter followers. We are making America #1 again. #TimeToGetTough
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 13, 2012
As of Friday, the president’s follower count stands at 80.5 million, and his slogan is, of course “Make America Great Again.”
This story has been updated.
Ben Werschkul is a producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.