Facebook will suspend President Donald Trump’s account for the remainder of his term as social media platforms are accused of helping to foment the the violence of pro-Trump protesters which erupted in the Capitol on Wednesday.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of the world’s largest social media platform, said in a blog post Thursday, that the US president would be banned from posting on his Facebook and Instagram accounts “indefinitely and for at least two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”
This statement is Facebook’s most sweeping rebuke to a world leader to date.
Mr Zuckerberg said Mr Trump was using the platform “to incite a violent insurgency against a democratically elected government,” adding: “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue using our service during this time are just too big. ”
The move prolongs a a shorter 24-hour ban announced by the platform on Wednesday following the unrest. It’s a remarkable about-face for Zuckerberg, who has long argued that private companies should not be the “arbiter of speech” and often left rule-breaking messages from politicians on his platform. form, deeming it in the public interest “.
The president posted a video Wednesday afternoon in which he told protesters in Washington to “go home” – but offered them his sympathy, declaring his “love” for them and reiterating claims that the election had been “stolen” and “fraudulent”.
In another article, Mr. Trump described the unprecedented assault on Capitol Hill – in which four people died – following an “election victory” that was “viciously taken away from the great patriots.”
Facebook and Twitter have both faced a torrent of criticism in the past 24 hours for failing to stem the spread of pro-Trump conspiracy theories, hate speech and domestic extremism online.
The indefinite ban means the president will not have a key spokesperson ahead of the inauguration of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.
Separately, a 12-hour suspension of Mr. Trump’s Twitter account was lifted Thursday morning, although the president did not immediately resume the tweets.
The company was the first to block its account on Wednesday for “repeated and serious violations” of its civic integrity policies, which ban deceptive posts intended to interfere with the electoral process. He added that future violations of his rules by the account would result in his “permanent suspension”.
Twitter said the company “is continuing to assess the situation in real time, including reviewing activities on the ground and statements made on Twitter.”
YouTube also removed Mr. Trump’s video, citing new policies banning allegations of widespread voter fraud.
Facebook also said it was taking other emergency measures in response to Wednesday’s events, such as automatically disabling comments on posts in groups that “are starting to have a high rate of hate speech inciting content. violence ”, and the removal of photos and videos posted by the protesters from his platform as they“ represent the promotion of criminal activity ”.
Trump supporters took to Twitter to complain that the president was “censored”, with far-right podcaster Matt Couch saying “Big Tech must be stopped!”
In contrast, many pundits and activists argued that the actions had not atoned for the platform’s perceived inability to act sooner, while others called for a complete ban on social media for Mr. Trump. Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said “these isolated actions are both too late and not enough.”
He added: “These platforms have served as the basic organizing infrastructure for violent right-wing groups and militia movements for several years now – helping them to recruit, organize, coordinate and in many cases (especially with regard to YouTube) generate profit. of their violent and extremist content.
The Real Facebook Oversight Board, a collective of Facebook critics from academia, business and politics, said the mob assault on Capitol Hill “has shown that Facebook is not adept at self-control.”
Other companies have also decided to limit their services to the president. Shopify said it has disabled two stores on the ecommerce platform affiliated with Mr. Trump, halting sales of merchandise on the president’s official website.
“Shopify does not condone actions that incite violence,” the company said. “Based on recent events, we have determined that the actions of President Donald J. Trump violate our Acceptable Use Policy, which prohibits the promotion or support of organizations, platforms or individuals that threaten or condone violence to advance a cause. ”
Additional reporting by Dave Lee in San Francisco