Trump temporarily locked out of several social media platforms

7 Jan 2021211 Views

Image: © michael/Stock.adobe.com

After Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube took action by removing the president’s posts and imposing temporary bans.

Social media giants took action after US president Donald Trump used their platforms to spread false claims about election fraud yesterday (6 January).

Twitter locked Trump’s account for 12 hours following the removal of three of his tweets, saying that the posts contained “repeated and severe violations” of the platform’s civic integrity policy.

The company added in a tweeted statement that if the tweets in question are not removed by Trump, his account would remain locked.

The move followed an afternoon of chaos in Washington, DC, which saw Trump supporters storm the US Capitol Building as a joint session of Congress was held to certify Joe Biden’s election victory.

Along with Twitter’s decision to delete Trump’s tweets and temporarily lock his account, Facebook instated a 24-hour block on the US president’s ability to post. Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, confirmed that Trump’s Instagram account would also be locked.

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all removed a video in which Trump addressed the protest as the post contained false information about the outcome of the 2020 election.

A change of policy priorities

Social media companies have come under scrutiny in recent years for their decisions about taking action on posts and accounts that spread misinformation.

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Facebook has previously been relatively lenient towards content published by political figures, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg stating that it “wouldn’t be right for us to do fact checks for politicians”. Last summer, Facebook refused to take action against a Trump post that suggested threats of military violence against Black Lives Matter demonstrators.

Twitter has also changed its stance. In 2018, the company drew criticism for refusing to hide controversial tweets from Trump due to his status as an “elected world leader”.

“Blocking a world leader from Twitter, or removing their controversial tweets, would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” the company said. “It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”

While the platform has been more proactive in recent months by flagging a number of Trump’s tweets using its fact-checking feature and introducing new measures to crack down on misinformation before and after the US election, it had still made certain allowances for Trump under the guise of public interest.

Following Minneapolis protests over the killing of George Floyd, Twitter had taken the decision to hide, but not delete, one such tweet. At the time, Twitter said that it did not remove the post entirely because “it is important that the public still be able to see the tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance”.

While many welcomed the decision to temporarily lock Trump’s social media accounts yesterday, others questioned the choice to wait so long before taking action. The storming of the Capitol building happened within the context of a surge in misinformation, conspiracy theories and far-right groups that has spread on online platforms.

Roger McNamee, tech investor and early adviser to Mark Zuckerberg, said: “Blame for the violence today will appropriately fall on Trump and his enablers on Capitol Hill and in right-wing media.

“But internet platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube, Twitter and others – have played a central role.”

Jenny is the Deputy Editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com