Twitter and Facebook Inc on Wednesday, January 6, temporarily locked the accounts of US President Donald Trump, as tech giants scrambled to crack down on his baseless claims about the US presidential elections amid riots at the US Capitol.
Twitter hid and required the removal of three of Trump’s tweets “as a result of the unprecedented and ongoing violent situation in Washington, D.C.,” after pro-Trump protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to force Congress to block the appointment of President-elect Joe Biden.
Among those removed is a video Trump tweeted during the siege, which addressed the rioters. In the video, the president told the rioters to go home but also continued to baselessly claim electoral fraud. The video was also removed by Facebook, Facebook-owned Instagram, and YouTube, owned by Alphabet’s Google, on their respective platforms.
One woman was shot and killed inside the Capitol building in the chaos.
Facebook later tweeted it would block Trump’s page from posting for 24 hours due to two policy violations. Later, Instagram head Adam Mosseri tweeted that Trump’s Instagram would be locked for 24 hours as well.
“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,” Facebook said.
Twitter locked Trump’s account for 12 hours and said that if the tweets are not removed, the account would remain locked, meaning the president would be unable to tweet from @realDonaldTrump.
YouTube did not take any further immediate action against his account.
Tech companies have been under pressure to police misinformation on their platforms around the US election, including through calls by users on Wednesday for major platforms to suspend Trump’s accounts.
The president and his allies have continuously spread unsubstantiated claims of election fraud that have proliferated online. Trump on Wednesday blamed Vice President Mike Pence for lacking “courage” to pursue those claims in a tweet that Twitter later took down.
A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Risk of violence
Facebook’s vice president of integrity Guy Rosen tweeted the social media company believed the president’s video “contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence,” saying the action was part of “appropriate emergency measures.”
YouTube said Trump’s video violated its policy against content that alleges “widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Election.”
Both Facebook and Twitter had originally added labels and measures to slow the video’s spread.
Dozens of Facebook staffers called for executives to clarify how they were handling Trump’s posts, with some calling for his account to be taken down for inciting the violence at the Capitol, according to internal posts seen by Reuters.
“Can we get some courage and actual action from leadership in response to this behavior? Your silence is disappointing at the least and criminal at worst,” one employee wrote.
Internal communications managers quickly closed comments on the threads, saying in identical posts that updates would be provided but “the priority right now is actively dealing with the ongoing situation.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the internal posts.
In a separate internal memo obtained by Axios, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “As Guy mentioned, our teams are actively monitoring the situation. We removed the recent video of President Trump’s remarks expressing support for the people causing the violence. We are treating this situation as an emergency, and we are implementing additional measures to keep people safe.”
“Our security team is continuing to track what’s happening in our nation’s capital and will provide further updates as necessary,” said Zuckerberg, who called the siege “a dark moment in our nation’s history.”
Former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos tweeted: “Twitter and Facebook have to cut him off.”
Civil rights groups including The Anti-Defamation League and Color of Change called for social media companies to suspend Trump’s accounts permanently.
According to researchers and public postings, violent rhetoric and advice on weaponry ramped up significantly in the past three weeks on many social media platforms as multiple groups planned rallies for Wednesday, including Trump supporters, white nationalists and enthusiasts of the wide-ranging conspiracy theory QAnon. – with reports from Gelo Gonzales/Rappler.com
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