Trump banned from social media after Capitol Hill riots

January 7, 2021, WASHINGTON/KARACHI: As the world watches America trying to uphold its own democracy, US President Donald Trump has been suspended by four major social media platforms.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have blocked Trump’s ability to post through his accounts on the respective applications for various time periods after the messy Capitol Hill riots Wednesday night when supporters of the Republican president, wearing Make America Great Again (MAGA) hats, stormed the seat of the US government, claiming it was a “revolution”.

Amid the Capitol Hill riots, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared the situation an “emergency” after the violence Washington witnessed, saying the platform was taking “additional measures” to “keep people safe”.

Facebook’s Vice-President for Integrity, Guy Rosen, said, in “an emergency situation” such as the Capitol Hill riots, the platform was “removing President Trump’s video”.

“We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence,” he added, with the platform noting that two policy violations “will result in a 24-hour feature block”.

The social media giant also removed Trump’s text post wherein the president tried to justify the attack and told supporters to “remember this day forever”, as well as a video in which he told rioters “we love you”.

In a lengthier statement, Rosen and Monika Bickert, Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Policy Management, said the content the platform’s moderators were searching for and removing included “praise and support” of the Capitol Hill riot, “calls to bring weapons to locations across the US”, “incitement or encouragement of the events at the Capitol, including videos and photos from the protestors”, “calls for protests — even peaceful ones”, and “attempts to restage violence tomorrow or in the coming days”.

Facebook finally updated its label for US election results, writing instead that, “Joe Biden has been elected President with results that were certified by all 50 states”,  under the posts that claim the outcome otherwise. It also labelled the MAGA rioters as “dangerous individuals and organisations” under the company’s policies.

In its additional new measures, Facebook announced “increasing the requirement of Group admins to review and approve posts”, automatically disabling Groups comments when posts start receiving a high rate of hate speech or incites violence, and using artificial intelligence (AI) to “demote content that likely violates our policies”.

Instagram followed suit, with its head Adam Mosseri saying the photo-sharing app was “locking President Trump’s Instagram account for 24 hours as well”.

Both Facebook and Instagram also blocked the #StormTheCapitol hashtag.

The Facebook video from Trump’s account in which he lauded the rioters was also removed by YouTube, the BBC reported, adding that Snapchat had banned the Republican president from making any new posts.

Update: After the publication of this story, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, on his Facebook profile updated the status announcing the platform has suspended Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts for indefinite period of time.

He wrote, “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. 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.”

Snapchat spokesperson Rachel Racusen confirmed to Axios that Trump’s account on the short-time video and multimedia messaging app was locked “earlier today”. The platform had back in June removed the president’s account from its suggestions — or the ‘Discover’ tab — for other users.

The publication reported Snapchat’s Racusen as saying the decision was made owing to Trump’s account promoting and spreading hate and inciting violence. Content from the president would be removed, instead of being labelled as misinformation or fake news, etc. However, there was no clarity as to whether or if Snapchat would remove the ban.

Twitter said it had deleted three of Trump’s tweets “for repeated and severe violations of our Civic Integrity policy” and was locking his account for at least 12 hours “as a result of the unprecedented and ongoing violent situation in Washington”. The US president’s account could remain locked if the flagged tweets were not removed, the micro-blogging platform added.

Twitter also warned that Trump’s account — @realDonaldTrump — could be permanently suspended in case of “future violations of the Twitter Rules, including our Civic Integrity or Violent Threats policies”.

Prior to that, Twitter had said it was “working proactively to protect the health of the public conversation occurring on the service” and “significantly restricting engagement with Tweets labeled under our Civic Integrity Policy due to the risk of violence”.

In addition to this, advertisers are pausing their social media advertising, and moving their ad expense on other platforms on the internet. In July 2020, over 1000 companies paused their advertising on Facebook in the wake of the constant hatred that the platform failed to counter, as part of the campaign #StopHateForProfit. Zuckerberg expressed indifference towards the campaign as the company repeatedly failed to address the concerns of users, activists, organisations, and advertisers about the hatred that is prevalent on Facebook. The advertisers started returning to the platform in August 2020.

Abad Mansouri (pseudonym) is a journalist and activist writing on gender-based issues and mental health.

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