Twitter warns of another violent rally or an attempted coup d'état by supporters of President Donald Trump on January 17, citing this as among the reasons it permanently suspended Trump's Twitter account Friday evening.
Twitter explained the unprecedented ban -- the first imposed on any head of state -- by saying it permanently suspended Trump's account "due to the risk of further incitement of violence."
But even as Twitter took this unusual step, various U.S. media outlets were reporting online posts from hate groups and right-wing extremists agitating for civil war, the murders of Trump's foes, especially Democrats, and killing police.
Twitter said recent Trump tweets were a glorification of violence when read in the context of the deadly and violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6. It also cited online plans by Trump supporters it had monitored calling for future armed protests around the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.
At the same time, Twitter also permanently banned two Trump loyalists -- former national security adviser Michael Flynn and lawyer Sidney Powell -- for spreading baseless QAnon conspiracy theories. It said it would take action on behavior it said has the potential to lead to offline harm.
On Thursday, Twitter suspended Trump's account for 12 hours after he posted a video repeating false claims about election fraud while praising the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol and saying he loved them.
In a lengthy explanation of its decision posted on its blog Friday, Twitter said recent Trump tweets to his 88.7 million followers had the ring of coded messages giving the go-ahead for violence before or during Biden's inauguration.
Two Trump tweets Friday, the first addressed to the "75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me" and the second confirming his non-attendance at Biden's inauguration were assessed by Twitter as indicators of future violence.
Twitter said these two tweets taken in the context of previous Trump tweets "were highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021."
It explained Trump's statement he won't attend Biden's inauguration is being seen by a number of his supporters as further confirmation the November 3 election wasn't legitimate. Twitter also sees this tweet as Trump repudiating a previous statement he made promising an "orderly transition" on January 20th.
The second tweet is more dangerous. In this tweet, Trump wrote, "To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th."
Twitter said this message "may also serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the Inauguration would be a 'safe' target, as he will not be attending."
It noted Trump's use of the words "American Patriots" to describe some of his supporters are being interpreted as support for those that committed violent acts at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
"Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021," said Twitter in its blog post.
Based on its analysis, Twitter argues the two Friday tweets "are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so."
Law enforcement experts warn the calls for violence growing rapidly on the internet have intensified ahead of Biden's inauguration.
"We are seeing ... chatter from these white supremacists, from these far-right extremists -- they feel emboldened in this moment," said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), which tracks and counters hate.
"We fully expect that this violence could actually get worse before it gets better."
The warning signs of impending violence being seen now are similar to the intense chatter before Trump's insurrection of January 6, said Advance Democracy, Inc., a nonpartisan governance watchdog.
The organization said, in the six days leading up to the insurrection, there were 1,480 posts from QAnon-related accounts that referenced the insurrection, and indicating violence. On Parler, the right-wing version of Twitter, multiple posts referenced war, including statements like "the war begins today."
Among the chilling threats posted by rabid Trump supporters: "Trump or war. Today. That simple." Another said, "we will storm the government buildings, kill cops, kill security guards, kill federal employees and agents, and demand a recount."