Power

Pressure mounts on social media giants to suspend Trump as rioters storm the Capitol

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube removed a video in which Trump expressed love for the rioters, but none of the companies have banned him outright — yet.

Pressure mounts on social media giants to suspend Trump as rioters storm the Capitol

Twitter locked President Trump's account.

Image: Twitter

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube took action against several of President Trump's posts Wednesday, labeling the posts, limiting reshares and removing a video in which President Trump expressed his love for rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol building, leading to the evacuation of the Senate, the deployment of the National Guard and to one person being shot and killed. Twitter locked President Trump's account, requiring him to remove three tweets and saying that his account would remain locked for 12 hours after those tweets were removed. Twitter also warned that any future violations would get him banned. Facebook also locked his account for 24 hours, citing "two policy violations." These actions followed a day of calls from tech investors, academics and others to kick Trump off of their platforms once and for all.

In an early tweet, University of Virginia law professor Danielle Citron implored Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to take action. "As someone who has served on your Trust and Safety Board since its inception and counseled you since 2009, time is now to suspend President Trump's account," Citron wrote. "He has deliberately incited violence, causing mayhem with his lies and threats."

In another tweet, investor turned tech accountability activist Roger McNamee wrote, "Internet platforms — FB, Instagram, Google, YouTube, Twitter, etc. — enabled this. They amplified hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories because it was profitable. They are accessories to the felonies we are seeing on our TVs ... and many others."

Facebook's former chief security officer Alex Stamos, who now heads up the Stanford Internet Observatory, also spoke out, arguing that Facebook and Twitter had run out of excuses not to ban Trump. "There have been good arguments for private companies to not silence elected officials, but all those arguments are predicated on the protection of constitutional governance," Stamos said. "Twitter and Facebook have to cut him off. There are no legitimate equities left and labeling won't do it."

Twitter responded to the chaos late in the afternoon, saying the company is "working proactively to protect the health" of conversation on the platform. "Threats of and calls to violence are against the Twitter Rules, and we are enforcing our policies accordingly," one tweet read. Only later Wednesday night did the company remove the president's video, lock his account and warn that he could face a ban later on. "Future violations of the Twitter Rules, including our Civic Integrity or Violent Threats policies, will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account," Twitter said.

A Facebook spokesperson released a similar statement earlier in the day, writing, "The violent protests in the Capitol today are a disgrace. We prohibit incitement and calls for violence on our platform. We are actively reviewing and removing any content that breaks these rules."

YouTube was the first to remove President Trump's video altogether, citing its policy against videos that allege widespread election fraud. In his video address, Trump doubled down on his baseless claims that the election had been stolen, while in the same breath, asking his supporters to go home and be peaceful. "Go home. We love you. You're very special," the president said in the video.

YouTube spokesperson Farshad Shadloo said the company was also working to remove livestreams that violate its policies against incitement to violence or that include footage of graphic violence. "In addition, we're continuing to raise up authoritative news sources on our home page, in search results and in recommendations. We will remain vigilant in the coming hours," Shadloo said.

Later, Facebook's vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen tweeted that Facebook would do the same. "This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump's video," Rosen said. "We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence." Facebook then blocked Trump's account for 24 hours, saying that the president would "lose the ability to post on the platform during that time."

As the violence escalated Wednesday, Trump asked his supporters on Twitter to "stay peaceful," only after spending much of the last day — and much of the last several weeks — tweeting baseless theories about election fraud. But Trump's message hasn't been confined to social media. In a text sent directly to supporters at 1:35 p.m. ET Wednesday, Trump's campaign shared this message: "Congress is voting to certify, or OBJECT TO, the Election results. Pres. Trump needs YOU to STAND WITH HIM!"

This story is developing and will be continually updated.

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