Facebook, Twittter, YouTube block US President Donald Trump amid Washington violence

Article by David Swan /
The Australian /
January 8, 2021 /
Click here to view original /

Social media giants Twitter and Facebook have suspended US President Donald Trump’s accounts, after he repeated disputed claims of election fraud and professed “love” for the mob of protesters who stormed the Capitol.

Twitter removed three tweets from the President, and warned that further rule violations would result in a “permanent suspension” of his Twitter account. It suspended him for 12 hours and threatened to ban his account altogether.

The company tweeted that the President had committed “repeated and severe violations of our civic integrity policy”.

“This means the account of @realDonaldTrump will be locked for 12 hours following the removal of these tweets. If the tweets are not removed, the account will remain locked,” Twitter tweeted.

“Future violations of the Twitter rules, including our civic integrity or violent threats policies, will result in the permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account.”

Facebook has blocked Mr Trump from posting for 24 hours, and also blocked him from posting to Instagram. A spokesman said, “We’ve assessed two policy violations against President Trump’s Page which will result in a 24-hour feature block, meaning he will lose the ability to post on the platform during that time.”

It comes after Facebook and YouTube moved to restrict the spread of video remarks from the President. The one minute pre-recorded video was liked more than 179,000 times on the President’s Facebook page before it was removed by the tech giant.

“This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump’s video,” Guy Rosen, vice president of integrity at Facebook, said in a tweet.

“We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.”

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement that “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 has also blocked the video, and a spokesman said its team is working to “quickly remove livestreams and other content that violates our policies, including those against incitement to violence or regarding 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.“

Twitter was the last platform to act, initially adding a warning to the President‘s tweet and blocking its users from sharing it or replying to it, citing a risk of violence. It later removed the video entirely and suspended Mr Trump’s account for 12 hours.

“In regard to the ongoing situation in Washington, DC, we are working proactively to protect the health of the public conversation occurring on the service and will take action on any content that violates the Twitter Rules,” a Twitter spokesman said.

“This claim of election fraud is disputed, and this Tweet can‘t be replied to, Retweeted, or liked due to a risk of violence,” Twitter said of Mr Trump’s tweet before it was removed.

High-profile tech entrepreneurs are calling on the platforms to be more proactive. US venture capitalist Chris Sacca blamed Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey and Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg for their perceived inaction, tweeting: “You’ve got blood on your hands, Jack and Zuck. For four years you’ve rationalised this terror. Inciting violent treason is not a free speech exercise. If you work at those companies, it’s on you too. Shut it down.

“Given @realDonaldTrump is now inciting violence, and this Twitter account is the main tool, I think @jack and the @TwitterSafety team should consider a 72-hour lock on his account. Don’t turn it off, just no more posting privileges,” angel investor Jason Calacanis tweeted.

Despite criticisms the tech giants haven‘t done enough to stamp out misinformation, Mr Trump has complained of being censored by them, after his Twitter and Facebook accounts were flagged for spreading coronavirus misinformation last year.

“They’re doing anybody, on the right, anybody, any Republican, any conservative Republican is censored and look at the horrible things they say on the left,” the President said in an interview with Geraldo Rivera.

Australian social media expert Sonia Majkic, the co-founder of Melbourne-based marketing agency 3 Phase Marketing, said tech giants shouldn’t be censoring any content unless it’s R-rated, obscene or sexually explicit.

“I don’t believe they should play God, and take steps to compromise democracy and the freedom of speech that our ancestors have fought for so hard for,” she said.

“I read Trump’s tweets this morning, and I believe he’s saying that people have a right to protest, but to do it peacefully. He’s defending his position to the American people, and I don’t believe that’s a crime. I want to be able to form my own opinions without the influence of social media giants.”

University of Melbourne social scientist Dr Lauren Rosewarne agreed, and said not liking his speech is not basis enough to shut his accounts.

“That said, false information, the incitement of violence and hate speech are unquestionably grounds for censure and platforms should have absolutely have acted accordingly long before now,” Dr Rosewarne said.

“We do need to keep in mind the downsides to banning Trump from social media including making him a martyr and shifting him and his supporter base to less visible and even less regulated platforms.”