Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday, January 7, 2021 the social media giant is banning President Trump indefinitely, marking a dramatic escalation between Silicon Valley and the White House after Trump weaponized the web to help stoke a riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”
Facebook’s suspension marked the most aggressive penalty that any social media company has meted out to Trump over his four-year term, a period in which he has repeatedly peddled falsehoods, attacked critics and spread divisive rhetoric online. Twitter on Wednesday evening suspended Trump for 12 hours, but the company’s blockade lifted Thursday morning — and the president had not yet tweeted.
The tech giants each took the rare aggressive steps after a violent mob stormed the House and Senate Wednesday, forcing lawmakers into a lockdown and briefly interrupting their formal process to certify Joseph Biden as the next president of the United States. In failing to act until after the deadly riot occurred, Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube have faced sharp criticism saying they should have done more, and sooner, to stop Trump from helping provoke the situation.
On Wednesday, Twitter punished Trump over a series of tweets that sought to cast doubt over the 2020 presidential race. One included a video in which Trump spread disinformation about the election’s outcome, even as he told rioters to leave the House and Senate at a time when lawmakers had started the process of certifying Joseph Biden as the next president. Another tweet attributed the violent mob’s actions to the widely disproved claim that votes had been “stripped away from great patriots.”
Twitter required Trump to delete the tweets to obtain access to his account, but it made clear it plans to escalate its enforcement efforts and suspend the president permanently if he continues to break its rules.
Facebook and its photo-sharing service, Instagram, then suspended Trump from posting over 24 hours starting Wednesday evening, and the tech giant joined Twitter and YouTube in taking down the president’s earlier video. Facebook also said it would remove harmful content posted by other users promoting similar riots at the U.S. Capitol before a day later extending its suspension indefinitely.
Trump has sought to weaponize social media repeatedly in the months since he lost to Biden in the presidential election, peddling falsehoods that promote the idea that there has been rampant voter fraud. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at times have taken action against Trump, but their attempts to label the president’s tweets as erroneous have not stopped their viral spread — or toned down the sort of political tensions that spilled out into public view this week.
The threat for further violence — and Trump’s history in using social media to spread misinformation — prompted a wide array of critics including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League to call on Silicon Valley to suspend the president outright in the final days of his first and only term. Meanwhile, Trump’s supporters took to alternative social-media platforms, including Parler, to tout their support for the riots and call for further bloodshed.
Source: The Washington Post