|Banning Trump Didn't Change How Much People Use Twitter, New Data Shows|
Trump’s presence on Twitter had no impact on how much people used it, contrary to the popular narrative.Big Technology
February 4, 2021
For as long as Donald Trump was president, there was a common misconception that Twitter’s fate was tied to his. That without his presence, Twitter would lose truckloads of users and engagement, and it was therefore beholden to him. Now that Twitter’s banned Trump though, the data shows he had no discernable impact on how much people used it.
Daily use of Twitter has remained remarkably consistent after it banned Trump last month, according to new data from mobile research company Apptopia. Across January, Twitter barely registered a blip in the number of times people used its app. The day of the ban itself is impossible to pick out when looking at the trend line.
“It is not easy for one person to have a noticeable impact on such large social network apps,” Adam Blacker, Apptopia’s VP of insights and global alliances, told me. “Cultural events are seen much better in the data than any singular person's situation.”
The new data, first published here, can finally put to rest the notion that Twitter kept Trump on its service to boost engagement and make money from ads. Despite Trump’s numerous run-ins with its rules, Twitter kept his account live as a matter of principle.
“Twitter felt an extreme responsibility to allow and stimulate public conversations,” one former Twitter executive told me. “They wrestled with that charge, the ability to enable those conversations, and what Trump had done to turn the conversations — and even the platform — negative.”
Beyond ideological opposition to removing Trump, Twitter’s real risk in banning him was it could spark concern among world leaders that they might be next. These leaders could block Twitter or punish staff in their countries, something the ex-executive said was a real fear. (Indeed, India is now threatening Twitter employees with prison time for letting journalists criticize its government.) For Twitter, this was more worrisome than a potential drop in usage that was never likely to materialize.
Twitter declined to comment. But it didn’t dispute the data. Apptopia pulls data from 125,000 apps on iOS and Android, along with publicly available sources, to reach its conclusions. Its data didn’t show any meaningful change in Twitter downloads, sessions, or time spent after the ban.
Twitter’s business did have a solid four years under Trump. While Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey only narrowly survived an activist investor’s attempt to oust him, the company’s stock price tripled during Trump’s presidency. Twitter’s success however was largely the result it finding direction under Dorsey, who had it focus on news while Facebook pulled back.
With @realDonaldTrump no longer active, Twitter might even enjoy a bump in business, according to Darren Lachtman, a former Twitter global director of brand strategy. “Twitter is and has been a steady part of pop culture, and one user — no matter who he is — disappearing clearly didn’t make a big difference,” he told me. “If anything, this will be a plus for advertisers who were turned off by toxicity from the past few years.”